Live export class action claimants find Government’s offer of $215m offensive

Headshot of Aidan Smith
Aidan SmithCountryman
Hedland Export Depot owner and 2011 live export class action claimant Paul Brown.
Camera IconHedland Export Depot owner and 2011 live export class action claimant Paul Brown. Credit: Amelia Blanco/Countryman

The Federal Government’s compensation offer of $215 million to the 2011 live cattle export claimants has been labelled “offensive” and “paltry” by the industry and Opposition.

The Federal Agriculture Minister in 2011, Joe Ludwig, closed down the live cattle trade for six months after images emerged of animal cruelty towards Australian cattle in Indonesia, which northern pastoralists and businesses have been fighting to be compensated for ever since.

Liberal Senator Slade Brockman has labelled the Government’s offer as “paltry” considering the damaged caused to the industry at the time was estimated at $2 billion.

Mr Brockman questioned the Government on the issue during Senate Estimates last week and later stated that the Labor Government had a “track record” on live export that wasn’t good.

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“The offer the Federal Government has put on the table is paltry and what they are doing to the live sheep trade is a disgrace,” Mr Brockman said.

“The Labor Government has a track record in this area — it closed down the cattle trade to Indonesia which cost the industry billions.

“They took the minister to court and he was found to have acted illegally (capricious and unreasonable).”

Brahman cattle bound for Indonesia in 2011 (file image)
Camera IconThe 2011 live cattle export claimants are not happy at the Government’s compensation offer. Credit: AAP

Hedland Export Depot owner Paul Brown, one of the 300 or so individual claimants, said the amount offered to settle the live export class action by the Commonwealth was “offensive and blatantly designed to stall and undermine the process to determine the legitimate claims by pastoralists and businesses affected”.

“Not only did the live export suspension destroy our growing business but now they are trying to exclude us from receiving any compensation at all,” Mr Brown said.

“The Commonwealth solicitor has not behaved as the model litigant that it said it would be, continually delaying court proceedings, missing deadlines for reporting and failing to adhere to directions made by the court.

“It’s utterly soul destroying and quite honestly, it’s a continual struggle dealing with the poor mental health burden that this pushes onto us.”

Cattle from Yeeda Pastoral, in the Kimberley, at the Broome Jetty are loaded on to a live export ship to Indonesia.
Camera IconCattle from Yeeda Pastoral, in the Kimberley, at the Broome Jetty are loaded on to a live export ship to Indonesia. Credit: Leon Mead/Countryman

Mr Brown said the offer put to the plaintiff group was the opposite of one made in good faith and they knew that it would be rejected.

“In fact, it’s plainly only designed for political purposes to delay and obfuscate the pursuit of justice by claimants against a government minister who has been found guilty of acting recklessly without any sympathy to the damage he was doing to an industry at a time it was most exposed at the start of the mustering period,” he said.

“It’s also far less than what they said that they had initially budgeted for as a settlement.”

Mr Brown said after 12 years of unwanted stress, which has led to some poor mental health outcomes, financial stress and family breakdowns in the industry, it was appalling that the Government was continuing a “cheap political stunt that caused this sorry saga”.

The Federal Department of Finance is handling the negotiations for the Government, while the legal firm Minter Ellison is representing claimants.

Cattle Australia and LiveCorp, two other claimants, refrained from commenting as the issue is still before the courts.

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