THE WA Liberal Party has supported a motion to support the live export trade – which was a great win for sheep producers according to Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook.
The motion came from the Durack and O’Connor Divisions, and the WA Liberal Party’s Rural and Regional Committee supported it unanimously at the WA Liberal Party State Conference on Saturday.
Mr Seabrook said the result was “a clear indication of the high level of support for the continuation of live sheep export trade among Federal and State Liberal MPs and senators, as well as the greater community, many of whom live in the city”.
The motion called on “the Federal government to continue the live shipping trade and ...ensure that all Liberal State and Federal MPs oppose any move to ban or phase out the trade”.
“Contrary to the numerous myths put out by animal activist groups that the government is divided on its support for the live export trade, and that the majority of Australians want to see live sheep exports phased out, the fact is that within government, and both in rural/regional areas and in the city, there is strong support for the continuation of this important and vital trade,” Mr Seabrook said.
Federal Liberal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson said it was “good to see the grass roots members of party initiate the motion”.
“If nothing else it is sending a message to city people and the Eastern States that WA producers want this trade to continue,” Mr Wilson said.
He will take up the decision of the State Liberal Party with his Federal colleagues.
“It will be the first Liberal Party room meeting since (the live export forum at) Katanning and I’ll be reiterating the WA decision to support the motion,” he said.
Mr Wilson has been holding live export forums and updates throughout the O’Connor electorate.
He said he was delighted with the support from producers across the regions with about 150 people turning up at Brookton, about 50 in Esperance and more than a 100 in Mayanup.
“They were very well supported,” Mr Wilson said.
“It shows you that farmers are really concerned about the longer-term future of the industry.
“We are having a magnificent season, with good prices, but what we are seeing is stock agents, truckies and pellet mills being impacted by the lack of sheep exported.”
Mr Wilson said in the short-term there would be real problems for producers to work through and in the medium and longer-term, greater industry decisions would need to be made.
“What has come out of the meetings is that people have come to the realisation that it will be very hard to see sheep leave before mid September,” Mr Wilson said.
He said the decision by the independent regulator about the suspension of Emanuel Exports was due to be handed down next Tuesday, August 21 – 60 days after the suspension was issued, which is in line with the legislation.
Mr Wilson believed the pendulum of public opinion swung too far one way but had come back again.
State Liberal Member for Geraldton Ian Blayney said he was “sure the industry will appreciate this support from the WA Liberal Party”.
“We have to make the new standards work, but I think the industry has a real future,” Mr Blayney said.
“The issue of most serious concern is that final approval is granted when the ship is loaded and ready to go.
“If at this point Animals Australia seeks a court injunction everything stops.
“It was said that this is a huge concern to exporters.
“Federal members said that they are seeking a change to this rule.”
Mr Wilson said Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud was looking at bringing the final permission for exporters forward, which was something they had been calling for in WA.
“Ongoing we know that we are not going to have a second or third chance so we have got to get this right,” Mr Wilson said.
Mr Seabrook said the live export trade was not a sunset industry, and sheep exports continued to remain a strong and viable part of the WA regional economy, even though the trade has been stalled for eight weeks.
“Over 5000 sheep farm businesses rely on the income that comes from this trade, and it also employs thousands of Western Australians, both in regional and metropolitan areas,” Mr Seabrook said.
He said last year Australia exported more than 1.5 million sheep to markets in the Middle East, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, live sheep exports rose 21.4 per cent between March 2017 and March 2018.
“In addition, according to the latest reports from the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, since 2010 sheep export mortality rates have fallen,” Mr Seabrook said.
“In fact, in 2017 the delivery rate of all sheep exported from Australia was 99.29 per cent, a clear indication that our live export industry and regulatory process is continuing to secure world leading outcomes in animal welfare.
“These facts continue to be lost on those who wish to ban this industry and remain in denial about the support for the live sheep trade among our Federal and State MPs and senators, the general public, and the greater farming community.”
Mr Seabrook said livestock producers couldn’t be complacent and sit back and let others fight for their industry, because they were all being or going to be affected by the impact of a live export phase out if Federal politicians continued with their push to appease the animal activists.
“It’s now up to producers to step up,” he said.
“They need to give a clear indication that they are prepared to do something.
“It’s been eight weeks since the last ship left.
“It’s also up to the Minister (David Littleproud) to meet with the exporters and work out how to get it going again.”
This week Harmony Agriculture and Food said it would not ship a consignment of sheep to Oman with the current uncertainty surrounding exports – although it did have two cattle shipments that were expected to continue to export in the next few weeks.
The company joined Wellard, Livestock Shipping Services and Victorian based Otway Livestock Exports that have also decided to steer clear of sheep exports until the Federal government can guarantee they won’t get caught up in court action after being issued with a threat of legal action by Animals Australia if they proceed to ship during the northern hemisphere summer.