Labor Agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon gave notice in Federal Parliament overnight that he will propose legislative amendments to ban live sheep exports today.
Mr Fitzgibbon announced his move when declaring Labor’s support for new laws brought by Agriculture Minister David Littleproud for tougher penalties for live exporters who breach animal welfare standards.
"It will put a stop to the summer trade at the first immediate opportunity and it will phase out the live sheep trade over a five-year period," Mr Fitzgibbon said.
His amendments mirror the private members bill of Farrer MP Sussan Ley.
Mr Fitzgibbon says a Labor government would support up-scaling of Australia’s sheep meat processing to replace the loss of live exports.
The coming vote will reveal on the floor of parliament the Coalition’s support for the sheep trade. Some backbench MPs have warned it is a divisive issue in their electorates.
Ms Ley’s bill did not get enough support to make it to a vote, despite backing from Victorian MPs Sarah Henderson and Jason Wood. Queensland MP Warren Entsch has subsequently announced he wanted to see live sheep exports banned.
Mr Littleproud is a strong supporter of live sheep exports and has moved to boost animal welfare standards.
He visited Middle Eastern customers last week to reassure them of Australia’s support for the trade.
He has committed to implement all 23 recommendations from the McCarthy review into the live exports in the northern hemisphere summer, which include:
Heat stress will replace mortality rates as the key measure of animal welfare.
The reportable mortality level will be halved, from two to one per cent.
An allometric stocking density system will be introduced, providing for around 39pc more space for sheep on the voyage, and reducing stocking density by about 28pc.
Mr Littleproud said his reforms were designed to support the farm sector and future-proof the sheep trade against future animal welfare controversies.
“I want to make sure there is a legacy, that no matter who comes in after me, that this cannot be broken down,” he said when he released the McCarthy Review in Sydney.
Mr Fitzgibbon has said it’s not right for Australia “to continue into the future a trade which can’t meet reasonable community animal welfare standards”.