The expert panel appointed by Agriculture Minister Murray Watt to oversee the phase-out of the export of live sheep is not interested in the future of the industry. They just want to know which flowers you would like at the funeral. Participants in the trade — farmers, transport operators, livestock agents, feed producers and exporters — have been asked by the panel for advice on the best way to transition away from the export of sheep. All the well-intentioned talk of “transitioning” out of the export of live sheep to some undescribed future is just one more example of the creeping invasion of management-speak into our language. We have all heard or read examples of this business jargon. Let me take you on a deep dive and pivot towards our public-facing response to this issue. These euphemisms are typically used to make something seem more impressive than it actually is. I promise to expand your knowledge base, develop your core competencies while leading you down the pathway towards blue-sky thinking and a mission-critical outcome. Blah, blah, blah. In this instance, Federal Labor has announced it intends to ban the export of live sheep from Australia to the markets around the world that depend on the trade to feed their hungry citizens. And Agriculture Minister Murray Watt, a Queensland Senator, has appointed a four-person panel to investigate the impact of the ban and how to “transition away” from the export of live sheep. The panel has been transitioning its way around regional WA in recent days and has been told very clearly by the livestock sector that the industry has earned the right to survive. The trade has adopted increased regulation, here and overseas, and is now a world leader in animal welfare. The panel has endlessly repeated that its terms of reference do not allow for a future, merely a phase-out. Of course, the livestock sector has every right to be suspicious of government offers of a transition package if recent evidence in the forestry sector is any guide. Since the McGowan Government’s shock decision made in 2021 to ban logging of native forests with a proposed end date at the end of 2023, there has been a steady stream of timber business closures and job loses well ahead of schedule. Workers were given a government pay out and some businesses were given a cheque on the way out, but any attempt to rebuild local industry or employment has been a sham. Thankfully, with a tight jobs market most timber workers could find employment, but possibly not in the communities they had lived in for decades. And as for the sawmills, logging contractors, firewood suppliers and other associated businesses involved, many of them multi-generational, the “transition process” has been much more brutal. And that is what the livestock sector will face. The Government can talk about the prospects of increased local meat processing capacity. But how they intend to deliver that extra capacity, other than nationalising the processing industry, is difficult to ascertain. They can talk about increasing the amount of chilled and frozen product exported to markets around the globe. That initiative got off to a flying start recently when senior Australian bureaucrats briefed Kuwaiti officials in the wrong department over plans to shut down the live sheep export trade. As you can imagine, the Kuwaitis bristled at being told what to eat and Kuwait’s biggest sheep importer, the majority state-owned Livestock Transport and Trading Company, fired off a letter to the Australian Livestock Exporters Council. The contents of the letter have been reported in the Australian media. “Embarrassingly, your government has chosen not to contact the Trade Ministers’ office to have the relevant discussion as that is the official department in the Kuwait government responsible for food security and trade matters and under which live animal imports falls,” the letter said. “We can assure you the government and our company will not be lessening our combined stance on the importance we place on live animal exports. They are of significant relevance to our religious, cultural and social stability and their availability will always be a constant concern for the government in ensuring our people have access to fresh sheep meat as a vital source of protein,” they went on. And these are the bureaucrats tasked with finding more markets for our farm produce? To stretch the business-jargon analogy to within a centimetre of breaking, the expert panel will report back to Canberra the valuable learnings garnered from meeting the WA industry in the past week. And if Canberra insists on the ban and transition package approach, then be honest with the farmers, the communities they live in and the broader livestock sector about what help the government can deliver. Better yet, keep the industry alive and let WA farmers get on with feeding the world. Steve Martin is a Liberal MLC and Member for the Agricultural Region.