Correspondence obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI) has shown it took three weeks for Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt to respond to a request from the Independent Panel for the phase-out of live sheep export by sea, for more time to adequately compile its report.
This revelation comes after Mr Watt had promised thorough consultation overall and in his relationship with the independent panel.
Farm Weekly can reveal that on August 25 Independent Panel chairman Phillip Glyde sought an extension to the September 30 deadline which dictated for the report to be handed to the minister.
"We are seeking your approval to deliver the report by 31 October 2023," Mr Glyde said.
"The volume and range of input received in the consultation process and commissioned work is such that we are unable to complete our analysis and recommendations in the original timeframe.
"We believe it is important to fully consider the input received, finalise consultations and weigh submissions and commissioned consultancies."
This extension was not unexpected by those in the industry as the depth and scope of work required to cover the intricacies and whole of the supply chain of live sheep exports is very complex and the industry expected a fair and all-encompassing report.
Mr Watt waited three weeks, until September 15, to reply and grant the report deadline extension but he still did not give them the full prescribed time requested.
"I acknowledge the complexity of the task based on the information you have received and appreciate that it is important that the advice you provide is appropriately informed and robust," Mr Watt said.
"To ensure you have sufficient time to fully consider the input received I agree to an extension to deliver the report to me by 25 October 2023.
"I wish you all the best in finalising your deliberations and look forward to receiving the Panel's report and recommendations."
The new date for the delivery of the report, as advised by the minister, was six days less than what was requested by the panel, even though the minister had promised industry that the consultation would be extensive and the subsequent report thorough.
The Albanese government's policy to phase-out live sheep exports by sea, coupled with processor backlogs that led to an oversupply of sheep, are factors that have been widely blamed for the uncertainty created in the sheep industry which has subsequently resulted in the dramatic drop in the price at market in WA, putting pressure on already anxious producers.
It has been stated the report was handed to the minister on October 25 by the Independent Panel and a government spokesperson has confirmed the minister will release it in full at a time yet to be decided.
"The independent panel delivered its report to Minister Watt on Wednesday 25 October," the spokesperson said.
"In Senate Estimates on Tuesday 24 October, the minister committed to releasing the panel's report in due course.
"It will take some time for the government to consider the recommendations of the independent panel and develop an implementation plan for the phase-out.
"The government will not be commenting on the details of the report while it carefully considers the recommendations and appropriate responses.
"The government remains committed to building a positive future for the Western Australian sheep industry, built on more onshore processing jobs and increasing sheep meat exports."
Leader of The Nationals, David Littleproud, said the policy had not yet been legislated.
"This policy is not a sure thing," Mr Littleproud said.
"The legislation still has to be passed and we are not giving up on blocking the legislation."
He said if their attempts to block the legislation from being passed failed, then the only other way would be a change in government and the opposition has already committed to reversing any ban on live export should it come into power.
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