KATANNING farmer and Federal Liberal O’Connor MP Rick Wilson has opposed his colleague Sussan Ley’s private member’s bill, the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018.
The bill had its second reading last week but is not expected to be voted on until August.
Mr Wilson said there were four reasons why he couldn’t support it, namely the “effect it will have on the hardworking farmers, truck drivers, stock agents and ancillary industries such as pellet manufacturers, who rely heavily on the live export trade for their livelihoods; the loss of the positive impact the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) has had on animal welfare outcomes for not only Australian animals but all animals in destination countries; the wider trade implications with the Middle East; and finally, the live sheep trade in the Middle East is much larger than Australian supply, so our animals will be substituted with animals from sub-Saharan Africa, the Black Sea and South America”.
Mr Wilson said he had fielded lots of correspondence from concerned farmers in his area about the future of the live sheep trade and he had passed those feelings on to Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
“People need to realise the Federal government hasn’t shut down the trade, it has introduced changes to the live export industry,” Mr Wilson said.
“As a consequence Livestock Shipping Services has diverted its operations to South America – and that’s their decision to make as a commercial operator.
“Now the regulator has withdrawn Emanuel Exports licence and I have been in discussions with the minister about this.
“Although he has provided very little detail, he has informed me that there are other anomalies that have come to light of a significantly serious nature unrelated to the Awassi Express incident.”
Mr Wilson said his preference would have been for the independent regulator to let the 60,000 sheep that were “stranded” in a Baldivis feedlot be exported and then suspend Emanuel Exports’ licence.
He was concerned about the shortage of livestock feed in the State and the impact on trade to the Middle East, as well as honouring the commercial contract that was in place with Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading (KLTT).
“If the sheep in the feedlot don’t end up going to the Middle East there will be a negative impact on the industry,” Mr Wilson said.
“There is already a confidence issue.”
In his speech to parliament Mr Wilson said the live export trade was worth about $250 million to the Australian economy, with more than 85 per cent of the income generated from WA, “largely from my electorate”.
“After the closure of the live export trade in 2011, prices for shipping wethers fell from the $80 to $100 per head range to $5 per head, recovering to the $20 to $30 a head range in the months following.
“This of course dragged the entire sheep market down by over 50pc and sent many businesses to the wall.
“I have received hundreds of emails from constituents who have been suffering great uncertainty and anxiety over the future of their businesses following the introduction of this private member’s bill.”
Mr Wilson said many farmers were shocked to see the animals they had raised and nurtured suffer due to the extreme weather event on the Awassi Express in August last year, however live export mortalities currently average 0.7pc per voyage, compared to 1.9pc in the 1990s.
“So this is a massive improvement over the past 15 years,” he said.
“Our ESCAS has actually lifted animal welfare standards across export destination nations for all sheep, not only Australian sheep.”
Mr Wilson said Middle Eastern countries imported around 10 million sheep per annum, of which Australia contributed only 1.6 to 1.8m.
“Contrary to assertions that this market is shrinking, global food company GIRA forecasts that demand will increase by 2.5pc per annum between now and 2022,” he said.
“The Saudi market accounts for around 56pc of the world live sheep market and sits outside the ESCAS.
“Prior to 2009, these sheep came largely from Australia, but the bulk of these sheep are now sourced primarily from Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan.
“The assumption that ceasing live exports will simply drive substitution to chilled Australian meat is incorrect.
“We only have to look to Bahrain to see that in 2015, when the live export market became unviable due to changes to government subsidies, MLA figures showed that our chilled meat exports have shrunk from 11,987 tonnes in 2014 to 7,423 tonnes in 2017.
“The fact is that live export is actually increasing.”
Mr Wilson said he commended Mr Littleproud for the strong stand he had taken with the imposition of stricter stocking density rates, independent observers on all voyages and significantly increased financial penalty.