The question remains whether Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt can guarantee the independent panel's report into the phase-out of live sheep exports by sea will be released in its entirety and if so when?
The report was handed to Mr Watt on October 25 by the independent panel and a government spokesperson at the time confirmed he would release the report in full - at a time yet to be decided.
Last week Farm Weekly reported that Mr Watt's office rejected the request for the release of the independent panel's report on the phase-out of live sheep exports by sea under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
The letter said the report had been made a Cabinet document, effectively sealing it, never to be released.
"The office holds one document (totalling 230 pages) that relates to your request," the letter said.
"I have decided to refuse access to this document (document one), I have decided that the document that you have requested is exempt under the FOI Act as it is a Cabinet document (section 34(3))."
The story ignited a very strong response from the public nationally on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.
Mr Watt took to X to reiterate his previous statement that the report would be released some time in the future.
Farm Weekly wrote to Mr Watt last week, seeking clarification on whether the report was now a Cabinet document and the process required to have a Cabinet document released under Federal law.
We also asked for a timeline for the report's public release and if it would be released before or after the minister and/Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry/the Federal government announced the next step/recommendations for the policy implementation?
At the time of going to print there was no reply from Mr Watt or his office.
Federal National Party leader David Littleproud said the minister could not guarantee the report would be released in its entirety, just sections or even at all, now that it was officially a Cabinet document.
"It will now be up to Cabinet to decide whether they want to release the full report, part of the report or none of the report," Mr Littleproud said.
He said Mr Watt could make a recommendation for the report to be released from its sealed status and it was then up to the Cabinet ministers - effectively out of Mr Watt's hands - if, how and when they released the document or not.
Mr Littleproud questioned whether the minister could guarantee the Cabinet ministers would agree to his recommendation.
He said Labor was destroying the sheep industry through this policy and allowing sheep prices to flatline.
Mr Littleproud said the government had failed to investigate why families were still paying high prices for lamb at the supermarket, through an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigation.
"This is an industry that has already lost confidence, with sheep prices plummeting," he said.
"Labor is destroying a whole industry.
"It will impact the sheep and wool industry across Australia.
"Farmers are broken over this decision - it is also having an enormous emotional impact on thousands of people."
Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said making the report a Cabinet document was another way to give the government more time to formulate its next steps - at the detriment of embattled producers.
"Obviously there is a lot on the line and this has resulted in people not feeling very confident at the moment," Mr Harvey-Sutton said.
"We've seen what's happened to the market and this policy has a big part to do with that and in the interest of transparency we would obviously like to see that report made public."
Mr Harvey-Sutton said the report's 230 page length emphasised the magnitude of the policy's influence.
"This shows the depths, the lengths and the detail that the panel has put into the report to the minister," he said.
"I believe it will demonstrate the significant damage it will do to the sheep industry nationally and illustrate the dire consequences for agriculture more broadly."
The Cabinet Handbook - 15th edition, explains the nature of Cabinet documents and the laws governing their protection.
Page 17 of the handbook states:
110. Cabinet records (files) are held on behalf of the Government in the care and control of the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and are issued to ministers and departments on a need-to-know basis. Once a minister or department no longer has any immediate need for them, and, in any event, when the minister vacates office or a change of government occurs, any copies of Cabinet documents must be returned to Cabinet Division or destroyed.
111.The convention is that Cabinet documents are confidential to the Government which created them and not the property of the sponsoring minister or department. Access to them by succeeding governments is not granted without the approval of the current parliamentary leader of the appropriate political party.
113. Cabinet records and Cabinet notebooks are accessible to the public through the National Archives of Australia after the expiration of the statutory closed period. The closed period, which for Cabinet documents currently varies between 20 to 30 years, seeks to provide the best balance between the competing priorities of, on the one hand, the need to safeguard privacy, security and confidentiality of the Cabinet, and to use available resources to best effect and, on the other hand, maximising public access to records.