IT has been 111 days since the Independent Panel consulting on the phase-out of live sheep export by sea handed its report to Federal Agriculture minister Murray Watt on October 25.
Victorian Liberal senator Bridget McKenzie questioned the minister and Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) secretary, Adam Fennessey, on where both the DAFF and the minister on the panel's report and the government's progress at this week's sitting of the senate rural and regional affairs legislation committee.
Ms McKenzie directly addressed Mr Watt first asking for clarification on when the government would release the Independent Panel's report to the public?
She cited the detrimental effects, the uncertainty of what, how or when any decisions involving their livelihoods were going to be announced or implemented.
Mr McKenzie said sheep producers and farmers in WA had been thrown into crisis, were in turmoil, and were desperate to understand the impact the decision and recommendations would have on their industry.
Making the point that the timeliness of this decision is one of the most mitigating factors as
farmers needed to make important financial decisions about joining, buying or selling sheep, seeding paddocks or grazing pasture, basically long -term/seasonal resolutions.
Every month the government delayed undermined farmers' confidence and put an entire industry at risk.
Mr Watt said he did receive the panel's report in October and the government was considering its subsequent recommendations, but he was not in control of the reports release, rather this was a decision for the government.
He would not be drawn on a timeframe, to assist producer confidence, or any of the details within the report, insisting the government remained committed to delivering its election commitment to phase-out the trade.
The government wanted to make the right decisions and implement an orderly transition, reiterating prime minister Anthony Albanese's statement that the trade would not be ended during this term of government.
Ms McKenzie asked Mr Fennessey where the brief DAFF had drafted was and whether he/DAFF had provided advice to Mr Watt on the matter?
Mr Watt said he had not seen the draft response yet, but knew DAFF had been working on it and he would check to see if it was in his office or with his advisors.
Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud said Agriculture Minister Murray Watt was
treating Australian farmers with contempt by hiding the report in Cabinet.
Labor continues to keep live sheep farmers in the dark by refusing to release details of its
Independent Panel Report into the consequences of phasing out the live sheep export trade.
Minister Watt told Senate Estimates that although the panel's report will be made public, he
couldn't provide a date and said it was a decision for the government to make.
"I am not going to go into what the recommendations of the panel are but the government remains committed to delivering its election commitment," MrWatt said.
Minister Watt also told Estimates he hadn't yet seen a brief about the transition plan and
the government was yet to decide the timeframe for the phase-out.
Mr Littleproud said Labor needed to be transparent about the report because lives were
being kept in limbo.
"It has now been 111 days since the report was delivered to the Minister and farmers are
desperate to understand the impact on phasing out the industry and what will happen to
them," Mr Littleproud said.
"It is not good enough that Minister Watt claims the transition 'does involve taking a bit of
"Minister Watt is turning his back on farmers while failing to give them answers."
He said if Mr Watt was so confident in his decision to phase out the industry, why won't he
release details of the report?