The West Australian exclusive

WA’s live sheep export ban: Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis to fight for ‘best possible outcome’

Headshot of Adam Poulsen
Adam PoulsenCountryman
WA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis.
Camera IconWA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

WA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis has weighed in on Federal Labor’s decision to steam ahead with plans to phase out live sheep exports, with farmers and industry leaders cautiously applauding her efforts to save the trade.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt on Friday revealed he had set up a new four-person panel as part of a consultation process to determine how and when the $92 million industry would be shut down.

In response, Ms Jarvis reiterated her support for the trade and vowed to keep fighting “for the best possible outcome” for WA’s sheep farmers.

“The WA Government has been consistent and clear that the current measures, including the northern summer live export ban, are sufficient,” she told Countryman.

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“We have repeatedly said these measures — which also include additional vet checks and monitoring — have worked well, and are effective and appropriate.

“I encourage all Western Australian sheep producers and agricultural industry bodies to have their say during the consultation process.”

Ms Jarvis, who has repeatedly voiced her support for the live sheep trade, was this week accused by the WA opposition of “throwing in the towel” after saying she had “pushed the issue” as far as possible with her Federal Labor colleagues.

But when asked whether Ms Jarvis had fought hard enough, every industry stakeholder Countryman spoke with — including WAFarmers president John Hassell — said she had done her best.

“I told her that even though the decision has been made, it was incumbent upon her as the ag minister to advocate as hard as she possibly could to try and get the best outcome in terms of the reversal of this decision within the Labor Party,” Mr Hassell said.

“She agreed with me, but she can only do so much. I still hold Jackie in high regard… it’s a Federal Government decision.”

WA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis.
Camera IconWA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook said he had “nothing but admiration” for Ms Jarvis and she had handled herself “exceptionally well”.

“Both the Premier and our WA ag minister have come out of this smelling of roses, they have not in any way sold us down the drain,” Mr Seabrook said.

“It’s this bloody Federal minister, who’s supposed to be for agriculture, he’s the one that sold us down the drain.

“As the minister for agriculture, Jackie has to have a plan B, and she’s working away towards a plan b, but she’s never changed her mind and called for live exports to be banned.”

WA Live Exporters’ Association chair John Cunnington was also full of praise for Ms Jarvis.

“For the Premier and the new Agriculture Minister to actually come out supporting the live sheep trade has been fantastic, and I hope they continue to do so,” he said.

WALEA chair John Cunnington.
Camera IconWALEA chair John Cunnington. Credit: JoshFernandesAE

“I don’t think it’s right that we should have the east coast politicians dictating to WA how we should be running industries in our State.”

Australian Live Exporters’ Council chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton said Ms Jarvis had been “very clear in her support of the industry” and urged her not to admit defeat.

He said Ms Jarvis acknowledged the industry had reformed and WA’s sheep producers were “counting on her to take that argument forward” to the Federal Government.

“I think the message that industry collectively needs to send to Minister Jarvis is that we have your back in taking this to Canberra,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

ALEC chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton.
Camera IconALEC chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton. Credit: Supplied/ALEC/RegionalHUB

“She’s already indicated she’s taken the fight to Canberra. Minister, we are very happy for you to continue to do so, and we will be supporting you every step of the way.

“It’s definitely not a done deal.”

Ms Jarvis called for the Federal Government to provide “more certainty” on what the phase out might look like.

“The Federal Government has confirmed there will be no changes during this term of government, but we need more certainty on what a transition plan may look like,” she said.

“I will continue to fight for the best possible outcome for our sheep industry in Western Australia.”

Labor confirmed its policy to shut down the live sheep trade in the lead up to last year’s May Federal Election but has yet to put a timeframe on the phase out.

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