Roger Cook has conceded Federal Labor’s live sheep export ban will be an “unnecessary burden” and one Prime Minister Anthony Albanese “should reconsider” after being confronted with a damning report commissioned by seven Wheatbelt shires. The 21-page report revealed the planned phase-out could cost more than $128 million in economic damage over 20 years in WA’s north-eastern Wheatbelt alone. In what might be his strongest signal of support for the industry yet, the Premier said WA Labor would “continue to stand by” the State’s farmers. “We believe the welfare arrangements that are in place, the checks and balances that have been put in place as a result of the reforms around that, are sufficient,” Mr Cook said. “The Federal Government has a mandate, and we acknowledge and respect that, but we believe this (live export ban) will be an unnecessary burden and one that it should reconsider.” Mr Cook made the comments after Central Wheatbelt MLA Mia Davies presented him with the report — commissioned by the North Eastern Wheatbelt Region of Councils (NEWROC) — in question time on Wednesday. NEWROC represents the shires of Dowerin, Koorda, Mt Marshall, Mukinbudin, Nungarin, Trayning and Wyalkatchem. Ms Davies questioned why a report funded by a volunteer group contained “more comprehensive” analysis than a recent report commissioned by the Cook Government — a suggestion the Premier rejected. “In relation to the veracity of their report versus our report, that is just negative nonsense,” he said. “Our report demonstrates just as much as this other report, in large part, that it will have a detrimental impact. That is something that we all acknowledge.” The WA Government’s report estimated shutting down the live sheep trade would cost the entire State’s economy about $132m and kill off 400 jobs. But Mr Cook said he anticipated the sheep industry “will adapt”. “Our farmers continue to do an amazing job on behalf of the economy of Western Australia — and we stand with them,” he said. “We know that one thing our farmers have is an extraordinary strength of character and resilience. “From that perspective, we will continue to stand by them in relation to any impacts that might occur to ensure that they know we have their backs.” Mr Cook said WA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis had been “talking to the Federal Government” about the issue. “The Western Australian Government and Western Australian farmers believe that the decisions the Federal Government is currently negotiating over are unnecessary,” he added. “We stand by the farmers and by the community of Western Australia in relation to this issue.” INDUSTRY WELCOMES ‘TREMENDOUS SUPPORT’ Industry groups were quick to welcome Mr Cook’s comments, which National Farmers’ Federation president David Jochinke described as “his strongest yet”. “It’s appropriate now for the Albanese Government to say that putting an end date on the trade just isn’t responsible,” Mr Jochinke said. “The evidence coming in continues to show there is no way to do this without destroying jobs, worsening welfare outcomes and testing our trading relationships. “The industry has improved and there is no longer a need for this policy.” Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook said WA — which accounts for virtually all live sheep exports by sea from Australia — stood to lose the most from the policy. He urged Mr Albanese to “step in” and scrap his Government’s “ill-advised policy” before it was too late. “This is tremendous support from the Premier, and advice that the Albanese Government should heed,” Mr Seabrook said. “The Premier understands the importance of the live sheep trade to WA’s rural economy, and that Western Australian farmers should not have their livelihoods destroyed in order to appease Eastern States based animal rights activists.” Federal Labor committed to phasing out live sheep exports in the lead-up to last year’s election, but has put off implementing the policy until after the next election. Both the Liberals and the Nationals have vowed to scrap the policy if the Coalition wins government.