Despite only being given a 20 minute timeslot with Australia's Federal Agriculture Minister, members of a Western Australian delegation to Canberra say last week's trip was worthwhile due to their conversations with several Federal politicians who could influence Labor's policy to ban live sheep exports by sea.
Eight representatives from groups including Sheep Producers Australia, WAFarmers, WoolProducers Australia, the Western Australian Shearing Industry Association (WASIA), WA Livestock and Rural Transport Association (LRTA), ASheep, the Pastoralists and Graziers' Association (PGA) of WA and The Livestock Collective made the trip east to highlight some of the complex implications the ban would have with the government's decision makers.
While members of the delegation chose not to disclose the names of the politicians they had meetings with "to help keep those relationships intact", The Livestock Collective director Steven Bolt who formed part of the delegation, said their conversations were a step in the right direction.
"The trip was driven by our growers on the ground and representative groups of our industry and the supply chain to get us a seat at the table to discuss the live export trade with key people within parliament," Mr Bolt said.
"We wanted the conversations to come from the grassroots level, so we had growers, livestock transporters, the shearing industry all represented and talked about the individual impact this will have on various parts of the supply chain and on our regional and rural communities."
Mr Bolt said common feedback they received from several politicians was that they hadn't understood some of the complexities around the live sheep trade prior to their discussions with the group.
"Things they hadn't previously understood included the impact of the phase-out in relation to things like risk management for mixed farming systems in WA, abattoir capacity and competition in the market," he said.
"We also drove home the point of how reliant the national flock and wool clip is on having good, stable sheep numbers in WA."
While the delegation met with Labor, Liberal and National Party MPs and crossbench members, Mr Bolt said the group took the opportunity to meet with anyone working in government who wanted to learn more.
"Whether it was government staffers or senators, we were happy to take the time to explain the importance of live export to the WA industry and economy and at national level more broadly," Mr Bolt said.
The timeframe required for any potential phase-out of the industry also formed a large part of their conversations in Canberra, with Sheep Producers Australia creating a chart to explain why an implementation time frame of three to five years would be "catastrophic" for the industry, 5-10 years would be "extremely detrimental" and 10-15 years would be "detrimental".
"Because of where sheep fit within a farming business and how slow it is to transition out of them, we've requested a timeframe of 10 or 15 years for any phase-out," Mr Bolt said.
"We also made it very clear that anything shorter than five years would cause catastrophic damage to the sector and I think that point was also made clear to the independent panel by WA's growers when they travelled around the State."
Before being able to determine what level of government support the industry will need if the ban goes ahead, Mr Bolt said the sector needed to be provided with the number of years the phase-out will take place over.
"What we need for a five-year phase-out will be completely different to what we will need for a 10-year phase-out, so we can't provide a definitive answer to that question until that number has been determined," he said.
WAFarmers president John Hassell, who accompanied the delegation along with WoolProducers Australia chief executive Jo Hall and Sheep Producers Australia chief executive Bonnie Skinner, also had a separate meeting with Mr Watt, in which he said the minister made it clear his mind would not be changed on the issue.
Labeling the decision by Mr Watt and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to ban the live sheep trade as "a purely political one", Mr Hassell said it meant that policy could only be beaten politically.
"The whole premise of this promise is to keep the greens happy so Anthony Albanese didn't face a challenge in his own seat and they are sticking by their promise because of that reason," Mr Hassell said.
"To sacrifice an industry in order to pander to any inner-city lefties in Sydney is pretty damn pathetic.
"What's interesting is that there are plenty of people in the Labor Party who are actually sympathetic to the industry, but because Albanese and Murray Watt have made the decision, they are in no way going to challenge them unless they think they are going to lose their seats...so I do think we can beat this and I think we can beat it politically."
National Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said the issue had united agricultural organisations across Australia, which were continuing to work together to push the government to reverse its decision.
"The focus (of the delegation) was to share the insights from the delegation and paint a really clear picture for politicians," Mr Mahar said.
"The goal was to get the government to scrap this bad policy.
"What the government doesn't seem to grasp is the ramifications of this ban won't just impact a few farmers in WA.
"It will rip out jobs across the supply chain from shearers to livestock agents and truckies and this domino effect will be felt in regional communities.
"WA's live sheep export market complements the wider wool and sheep industry in Australian agriculture, so taking this trade away impacts producers everywhere."
Mr Mahar said the ban would also impact Australia's international trade markets and relationships and leave a dent in our economy.
With the report by the independent panel appointed to provide advice on how and when the government will phase-out live sheep exports by sea due on September 30, Mr Mahar and Mr Bolt both said their respective organisations would push for the report to be made public as soon as possible.
"This policy will impact thousands of Australians, so it is only fair and right the report is made public," Mr Mahar said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.