Labor pledges end to live trade in five years

Zach RelphCountryman
VideoLive exports during the Northern summer are worth an estimated $55 million.

Federal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon has repeated Labor’s stance to end the live sheep industry within five years, if elected, despite exporters agreeing to a three-month moratorium to the Middle East.

Mr Fitzgibbon praised Australian Livestock Exporters Council’s decision on Tuesday to enforce a ban on the live sheep export trade during the northern hemisphere summer.

After the announcement — which will halt Middle East-bound live sheep voyages for three months from June 1 next year — Mr Fitzgibbon fired a warning shot at the industry and foreshadowed the live sheep trade’s death under a Bill Shorten-led Labor.

“A Shorten Labor Government will put an end to the northern summer trade at the first opportunity and phase out the balance of trade while helping sheep meat producers make the transition to more domestic processing,” he said.

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Mr Fitzgibbon also used the moratorium announcement to take a swipe at the Morrison Government’s approach to the live export debacle, calling for a vote on the trade’s future in the House of Representatives this week.

“The Morrison Government must start listening to the people: the live sheep trade is acting where the Government won’t,” he said.

“I congratulate ALEC on this step in the right direction; however, the Morrison Government must now allow the House of Representatives to express its will on the the future of the live sheep trade.

“A vote to phase out long-haul live sheep exports must be held this last sitting week.

“Labor will continue to be guided by the science which says the northern Middle Eastern summer trade and animal welfare standards are incompatible.”

Federal Agricultural Minister David Littleproud offered a more direct assessment of the moratorium and said exporters should have taken action “years ago”.

“I have repeatedly asked exporters to lead,” he said.

“It would have been better if industry had shown leadership across a broad range of animal welfare matters some years ago.

“It’s important we respect our trading partners and make sure we work through practical solutions to ensure their food security.

“We await the science regarding the heat stress model which we expect shortly.”

On Monday, Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie introduced a Bill to phase out long-haul live sheep exports within five years.

The Bill mirrored legislation moved by Liberal MP Sussan Ley and seconded by her partyroom colleague Sarah Henderson before they were promoted to the ministry.

Ms Ley and Ms Henderson oppose the live sheep industry, but their elevation to the frontbench has forced them to vote with the Government.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie introduced his own legislation that would end all live sheep and cattle exports within three years and put tougher safeguards on the industry in the meantime.

“There is systemic cruelty in the live animal export trade and the only way to end the cruelty is to end the trade,” Mr Wilkie said.

From January 2010 to December 2017, live sheep exports to the Middle East injected $2.06 billion to the nation’s economy; 16.6 million sheep were exported on 258 voyages with recorded mortalities less than one per cent.

With AAP

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