Pastoralists focus on grand plan

Amy WilliamsCountryman

After “crisis talks” and delegations to Canberra, Kimberley pastoralists are now confident they are weeks away from re-establishing their trade of live cattle exports to Indonesia.

The ban on the trade of live cattle to Indonesia has resulted in a complete loss of income for many pastoralists, including Haydn and Jane Sale of Yougawalla station.

Last week, they travelled with fellow Kimberley pastoralist Malcolm Harris to visit Federal ministers, including Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig.

Mrs Sale said they were optimistic trade could resume within weeks.

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“We asked what we could do to help get things going, and we think we’re pretty close,” she said. “We believe Mr Ludwig and other politicians are aware of the urgency now.”

The State has supported pastoralists by pressuring the Federal Government, with Premier Colin Barnett claiming the ban has put the industry back some 30 years.

WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman also visited Indonesia this week.

In Broome last Thursday, some 300 pastoralists and people from all facets of the live cattle export industry descended on Roebuck Plains station to discuss the re-establishment of trade with Indonesia.

Rather than focus on financial woes, they honed strategic plans to improve live export practices.

Jack Burton, of Yeeda Pastoral Company, said the industry was taking the opportunity to take the bull by the horns and fix problems.

“We, as producers, need to become responsible for animal welfare — a side in which we feel let down to a point,” he said.

Their plan included urgent development of supply chain assurances.

Mr Burton said this would mean working with Indonesia to introduce the National Livestock Identification System, allowing producers to track each beast from paddock to truck, ship to feedlot and eventually to slaughter.

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA), which ran the meeting, said the gathering had “lit a fuse” among WA’s cattle producers, with industry forums continuing throughout the State.

PGA pastoral and livestock executive officer Ian Randles said the meeting was “unique” and it was a great credit to the industry that so many people took the time to do their bit for the industry.

“The Broome meeting has lit a fuse, which is now burning its way through the Mid West,” he said.

“The PGA is preparing for a similar industry forum in Geraldton on Friday, which we hope will attract people from throughout the Wheatbelt, the Murchison and even the far north Gascoyne.”

Meanwhile, compensation has not been fully addressed, but there were calls for discussion on it at the Broome meeting.

Joe Ross, of Bunuba Cattle Company, asked Mr Redman, who attended the meeting, for a moratorium on shire rates and pastoral lease charges.

Mr Redman said while local government rates were not within his portfolio, he would look into the possibility of such an action.

The pastoralists also proposed setting up a producer-based group to oversee animal welfare issues and start a campaign to regain the Australian public’s confidence in the cattle industry.

Ruth Webb-Smith, of Yakka Munga station in the Kimberley, said pastoralists needed compensation after having cattle prices slashed and their pastoral lease rates soar up to 700 per cent in the past three years.

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