Senator’s Kimberley reception a frosty one

Flip PriorCountryman

Kimberley pastoralists have formed an uneasy truce with Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig after a “tense” meeting in Broome last week and say they are hopeful of getting the live cattle export industry back on track.

Last Tuesday, their anger of recent weeks gave way to quiet frustration as the grim reality of the aftermath of the export ban kicked in.

Kurt Elezovich, of Country Downs, said the economic devastation would be felt for years to come and estimated his business was worth 30 per cent less than before the ban was imposed.

However, he said playing the “blame game” would be counter-productive.

“We’ve got to look at how we can build ourselves a robust industry for the future, ” he said.

“You can rest assured that a scenario like this has the potential to unfold again, if not in Indonesia somewhere else, and we’ve got to be proactive and make sure it can’t happen again.

“What we’re trying to do is build an industry that’s beyond reproach in a welfare sense … we want to be the world’s best.”

Senator Ludwig arrived in Broome mid-morning to a frosty reception from the pastoralists, who had gathered for an update on the fallout from the export ban.

Asked whether the Government had made mistakes in its handling of the issue, Senator Ludwig said the only regulatory response available had been to suspend the trade.

“One of the things we do need to get in place is a supply chain assurance … it means both the tracking and auditing of the supply chain, ” he said. “What we had in the past was a self-regulatory framework which did not address animal welfare outcomes.”

He said the Indonesians had issued 180,000 permits and were keen to get exports up and running. Other cattle export markets were being examined by diplomatic staff, who would report to him by the end of the month.

Mr Elezovich estimated it would be at least a month before any of his cattle left for Indonesia.

“It’s fine to announce a resumption of the trade but there’s a lot of nuts and bolts of work that goes into it before you actually put a boat together, ” he said.

He said Senator Ludwig was “not at all” sorry in the meeting about imposing the ban: “He defended his right to make that decision, ” he said.

Jack Burton, of the Yeeda Pastoral Company, said pastoralists were still resentful after paying the price for decisions Senator Ludwig had made without consultation.

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