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Live export: Truckies fear for their livelihoods after Albanese Government unveils phase-out roadmap

Olivia FordCountryman
Livestock transporters say they are worried about the live sheep export phase-out and what it means for not only their businesses, but their local communities.
Camera IconLivestock transporters say they are worried about the live sheep export phase-out and what it means for not only their businesses, but their local communities. Credit: Dean Lewins/AAP Image

The Albanese Government’s four-year roadmap to phase out live sheep exports poses a major threat to the livelihoods of livestock trucking operators, industry leaders say.

WA’s Livestock and Rural Transport Association president Darran Bairstow has laid bare his worries for the industry, saying the phase-out will have a “devastating” impact on businesses and communities.

It comes after Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt announced the official road map for the end of the live sheep trade, with the end date set for May 1, 2028.

Mr Bairstow said the announcement had caused a mixture of “disappointment” and “devastation” in the industry.

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“I really think the Federal Government has underestimated how far and how wide the scope is on this, and how many people’s businesses and lives are going to be affected by it,” he said.

“I’ve had reports from one operator that it could cost him up to $400,000 a year in lost revenue.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt announced a $107 million support package to be delivered over the next five years to help the Australian sheep industry transition from live export.

$64.6 million of the package will go towards helping sheep producers and other industries in the supply chain to prepare for the transition.

“Transition support is focused on helping affected individuals, businesses and communities to plan for, respond and adjust to the phase out,” Mr Watt said during his announcement.

“Importantly, it will be available to help all parts of the sheep industry supply chain, from farmers, to truckies, to shearers and processors.”

However, Mr Bairstow said the minister did not understand the true extent of the impact a live export phase-out would have on not only the supply chain, but regional communities.

Mr Bairstow said flow-on effects would be “huge” and a lot of businesses would be left no longer financially viable.

He said many livestock carriers were big sponsors in their country towns and supported initiatives such as sporting clubs.

“Small country towns are pretty cohesive mobs, and if you start taking businesses out of those little country towns, it has a huge flow-on effect to the whole social environment,” he said.

WALRTA vice-president Ben Sutherland, who owns and operates the 5k Livestock and Bulk Transport business, said he was also fearful for what the live export phase-out meant for his and others’ livelihoods.

“It’s going to be 40 per cent of my bottom line gone … it’s a fair chunk of your business to have taken away from you,” he said.

“…For a lot of my fellow livestock carriers, it’s devastating.”

Mr Sutherland said he donated $8,000 to $10,000 a year in sponsorship for his community.

“If you walk around any football oval in a country area, it’s mostly local transporters that (you see) sponsor juniors right up to seniors and beyond,” he said.

“Local communities thrive on their local carriers.”

Mr Bairstow said the organisation would work towards ensuring the best future for its members and try to convince the Government to reconsider its position on live exports.

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