Liberal dose of relief after Election win

Steven BoltCountryman
Steven Bolt says he was fearful “that a win for Labor would remove the confidence for many to remain in the industry”.
Camera IconSteven Bolt says he was fearful “that a win for Labor would remove the confidence for many to remain in the industry”. Credit: The West Australian

“Relief” would be the best word to describe my feeling on Saturday night, as the results of the Federal election became clear.

I am sure that was the feeling for most WA sheep producers, associated businesses and regional communities.

Labor had been leading the polls and holding firm on a policy to phase out the live export of sheep over a five-year period. In comparison, the Coalition’s policy strongly supported the trade.

The outcome of the election weighed heavily on our sheep industry.

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As a passionate sheep producer, I was fearful that a win for Labor would remove the confidence for many to remain in the industry and, once again, we would be facing a significant decline in numbers of breeding stock in WA.

The live export trade of sheep to the Middle East has been in operation for more than 40 years, accounting for close to 30 per cent of surplus sheep that have been sold annually, in recent times, across the State.

The WA sheep industry has developed a strong relationship with its Middle Eastern customers, with the State’s sheep highly sought-after by the trade for their consistent quality.

The live export industry has for a long time faced strong pressure to improve its performance and transparency, to not only producers but the wider community.

However, those changes have mainly been reactionary to issues affecting the trade.

With the support of exporters, associated industry representatives and producers, The Sheep Collective has been successful in providing a positive voice for the industry with an open and transparent dialogue associated with factual information.

Corrigin sheep farmer Steven Bolt.
Camera IconCorrigin sheep farmer Steven Bolt. Credit: Nic Ellis

The result of the election will provide some certainty for producers and exporters, but we must make the most of this opportunity to continue to deliver improved animal welfare outcomes on all voyages.

This opportunity allows further scientific testing and research to determine the best management of heat stress on board, as the industry strives to deliver a low-risk trade.

Everyone within the supply chain has a role to play to continue the success of voyages to the Middle East.

An example of this is the producers’ role in providing sheep to the market that are fully vaccinated and scratched.

We must continue to deliver a fully transparent industry and I see The Sheep Collective playing a crucial role in the education of the public, not only in terms of live exports but also in general livestock handling and husbandry.

We are an industry that cares for our livestock — the focus on animal welfare is a top priority for producers.

Governments will have a major role to play in live exports going forward, as industry leaders look for support from both State and Federal governments to provide regulation and standards that allow the trade to operate safely and economically.

Producers also require certainty to reinvest in their livestock operations with confidence and security.

The challenge of growing breeding ewe numbers in WA has been an ongoing issue and we would welcome the State Government’s continued support in this area.

The Australian sheep industry has significant opportunities in front of it, with growing worldwide demand for our environmentally sustainable Merino wool and meat products.

A well-managed industry should seek to capitalise on the current global markets.

We should also acknowledge the significant role that many of our industry leaders have performed working with government and regulators over many months on behalf of the sheep industry.

These roles will continue to be important as we look to provide a fully open, transparent and highly successful sheep industry going forward.

Steven Bolt is a Corrigin sheep farmer and the former president of Stud Merino Breeders Association of WA.

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