Rally to highlight cost of ban


Pastoralists, truckies, station hands, stock agents and live exporters will muster at Roebuck Plains station near Broome today to show the Federal Government the real cost of its decision to halt cattle exports to Indonesia.

The rally, organised by the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA), is also expected to repeat calls for an immediate resumption of the trade to abattoirs that have been shown to be following Australian standards.

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig last week halted live cattle exports to Indonesia for up to six months, following Four Corners footage of animals being cruelly slaughtered.

The ban has left thousands of cattle stranded in pre-embarkation feedlots in northern Australia and the industry in limbo.

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Now a row has erupted over who will pay for the stranded cattle.

Mr Ludwig said he would exercise his power under Federal law to direct Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to use some of its reserves, after MLA on Tuesday refused to oblige.

He has given MLA until tomorrow to respond and wants a fund set up by June 22.

But PGA vice-president Ruth Webb-Smith is outraged at the idea that producers’ levies should be used to pay for the Government’s actions. “It is ridiculous, ” she said. “How can it throw this back on us when it made this mess?”

Ms Webb-Smith said pastoralists would fight till the end, and if the ban remained, the Government would have blood on its hands.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton echoed fears for the broader live export trade amid calls for a total ban and an inquiry, which was due to report back to the Federal Government at the end of August.

The live cattle debate dominated most of the Liberal-Nationals party room meeting on Tuesday, as it did the Labor caucus, with a motion passing unanimously for live cattle exports to Indonesia not to resume until “all slaughterhouses receiving Australian cattle comply with international standards”.

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