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Petition launched: WA Premier Mark McGowan accused of passing the buck on live sheep exports

Headshot of Caitlyn Rintoul
Caitlyn RintoulThe West Australian
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WA’s Opposition have launched a petition calling on Premier Mark McGowan to urge the Federal Agriculture Minister to reverse its stance on phasing out the State’s live export industry.
Camera IconWA’s Opposition have launched a petition calling on Premier Mark McGowan to urge the Federal Agriculture Minister to reverse its stance on phasing out the State’s live export industry. Credit: The West Australian

WA’s Opposition has launched a petition calling on Premier Mark McGowan to urge the Federal Agriculture Minister to reverse its stance on phasing out the State’s live export industry.

Agricultural Region MP Colin de Grussa said the Premier missed an opportunity to squash talk of a ban during Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt’s visit to the State this week.

He was joined by WA Nationals deputy leader Peter Rundle. The duo said the petition would allow the public to put pressure on the WA Government to lobby their Federal counterparts.

“Mr Watt has also made claims that his mind will not be changed on the future of the $136 million live sheep export industry here in Western Australia.

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“It’s not good enough for Western Australia to be dictated to by a Queenslander about what industries will and will not succeed in this State,” Mr de Grussa said.

“We want to see the Premier take the fight to the Federal agriculture minister, to change his mind.”

Senator Watt made claims the sheep shipping industry has “lost its social licence” and should be shut down during a Senate estimates hearing last week while being grilled on Federal Labor’s impending live sheep export ban.

Media tour of Emanuel exports sheep carrying business. Fremantle port. Loading sheep for export. 
Sharon Smith The West Australian
Camera IconMedia tour of Emanuel exports sheep carrying business. Fremantle port. Loading sheep for export. Sharon Smith The West Australian Credit: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

Federal Labor won the May 2022 Federal Election after pledging to phase out the live sheep trade, which is almost exclusively WA-based.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the phase-out would not occur during his first term of Parliament, with no timeline, so far, established.

In 2017 the death of 2400 sheep on board the Awassi Express during a heatwave was exposed through shocking footage provided by a whistleblower of the squalid conditions endured by the animals.

That prompted an industry-enforced ban on exporting sheep to the Middle East during the northern summer.

Mr de Grussa said there needed to be open and transparent communication from the McGowan Labor Government about how it intended to engage with the Albanese Government on this issue.

Asked on the matter in Parliament on Thursday, Mr McGowan wouldn’t be drawn into the issue, saying it was outside of his role in State Government.

Mr Rundle said live export was already experiencing issues in WA, with half-a-million sheep unable to be processed because of a backlog.

“There’s nearly 500,000 wethers in limbo in Western Australia. With nowhere to go, we can’t process at the moment,” he said.

“I think it’s really important that we support this industry.”

Mr de Grussa said the Premier and new Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis’ publicly stated support needed to be “more than just words”.

Independent Senator David Pocock was expected to meet with representatives of live sheep export industry on a vessel in Fremantle on Friday.

The fact-finding mission comes Mr Albanese’s commitment would likely rely on the support of crossbench senators such as Mr Pocock.

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