Please allow me, if you will, a few moments to get on my soapbox.
Ever since the Federal Labor Party announced it was going to phase-out live sheep exports by sea, I have read and heard a lot about the debate - and why the government is hell-bent on wrapping up the industry.
Animal welfare, a commitment they have taken to previous elections and a decline in the number of sheep being exported on the boats seem to dominate the messaging.
And while someone needs to keep holding the spotlight on animal welfare to ensure the highest standards are implemented - and maintained, somewhere along the way the need for live sheep exports and what it means, particularly for the WA sheep industry, has been overtaken by politics.
Farmers and sheep producers have been going about their businesses of producing a world-class product for many, many decades - and in a lot of cases, well before many of the politicians of the day, and their city-centric policy advisers were on the scene.
The policy is also based on Labor being re-elected at the next Federal election.
And given the political cycle, hopefully most of these farming businesses will be around long after the current batch of MPs and advisers have run their interference and moved on.
Now before any MP gets their nose out of joint from what I have just said, I acknowledge that overall, they do a lot of good things and governments at all levels are there for the betterment of the community, but sometimes they overstep the mark.
It takes a bigger person or party to take a step back, realise this and recognise what affect this could have on people.
A case in point was the WA Labor government's backflip on its recent controversial Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act - it finally listened to the growing and very loud chorus that was asking for the changes to the act to be done in a different way.
Now it's time for the Federal government to realise its overstep and do the same thing.
I will concede that animal welfare has to be front and centre of any future policy - and if you ask the average farmer, they will say the same thing.
What happened on the ill-fated Awassi Express back in 2017 where about 2400 sheep died from heat stroke was unacceptable and wouldn't pass the pub test.
The industry, to its credit, continues to learn from that horror to ensure higher standards are now met - and more can always be done for compliance right along the supply chain.
If politicians don't believe a person or an industry deserved a second chance, then maybe they should look at themselves.
We have seen MPs breach community standards and disgrace themselves and over the course of time, a lot of them have been given a second chance.
I have heard ad nauseam that Labor took its live export policy to the past two elections and to that point, firstly I wasn't aware of it at the first election and I question how many others were, and secondly, Labor didn't win that first election.
While I was aware of this policy the last time we went to the polls, can the party categorically tell me that is why it won the last election?
What about all the other policies it lured voters with?
How many of those policies would have been a higher priority to the voter than live export?
How many voters from Australia's major metropolitan centres know anything about the live export of sheep via boats, apart from the footage they would have seen of sheep dying on a boat?
Any maybe, just maybe, Labor won the election because voters were dissatisfied with the other parties?
Still on the animal welfare stance and the mortality rates on the boats, I ask the question to these activist organisations - how many sheep die in the paddock from extreme weather conditions, being attacked by foxes, being attacked by eagles or other natural complications?
Without even asking for statistics, I know the number will be a lot higher than the mortality on a live export boat where the sheep arrive at their destination in better condition than when they were loaded at a WA port.
Over recent weeks I have listened to a few different Federal MPs tell us about the decline in live sheep exports by sea - and they all know exactly what the figures as they paint a picture of a struggling industry.
A lot of industries and businesses have had declining numbers for a long time, but that is no reason for them to have their doors or farmgates forcibly shut.
Maybe instead of sinking the boots in and playing the political game, why don't the people behind these decisions dig a little deeper and ask why.
Whether or not there are market cycles and other interventions is not a reason to shut down an industry and thousands of businesses that rely on it.
Many of the people driving this anti-live sheep export industry are from the Eastern States and have no understanding of what it means to WA communities and economies.
It's similar logic to the many commentators and 'experts' from the east who were calling for wholesale changes to my football team's coaching and management structure.
Just because my team has had a few lean years, it doesn't mean it should be dumped from the AFL - although there are some in the east who would salivate at that prospect.
It doesn't mean everything is bad at the club - like business and markets - it's cyclical and you need to look at the bigger picture.
The Federal government's stance is already affecting the WA sheep market, well before a date is announced for the phase-out is determined, which to me is market interference.
Looking a bit further down the track, how does the government determine an adequate compensation structure for the shutdown and the huge financial losses inflicted?
The national live cattle export industry is still at loggerheads with the government over compensation after the live cattle exports to Indonesia were temporarily halted back in 2011.
Let's not forget the Federal Court ruled the ban as unlawful, "capricious, irrational and unreasonable".
In recent weeks the Federal government is under pressure for its decision to prohibit flights from Qatar Airways to Australia.
What many people don't realise is this decision also affects how much processed lamb can be exported to the Middle East, as this part of the industry relies on passenger flights to make it happen.
And what about the mental health outcomes for the people affected by this decision?
What is the government going to do about that?
Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't governments meant to be there to make our livelihoods and society better - and protect us?
It's something that most farmers I have spoken to in recent months are also questioning.
Enough is enough.
- Darren O'Dea is the editor of Farm Weekly
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