Senate showdown to decide fate of live sheep export

Senate is now the last remaining hope for livestock transporters if the phaseout of live sheep export by ship is to be stopped from entering the law.

The controversial bill passed through the House of Representatives 89 votes to 54 on Wednesday.

According to reports, the sheep industry is now focused on getting a Senate inquiry into the trade phaseout and shoring up any crossbench support for the Senate vote tonight.

A hastily-prepared parliamentary committee report last week recommended the Labor government consider additional funding to the $107 million pledged to help farmers and other members of the industry, including trucking operators, into other lines of work.

Rachel Smith, the executive director of the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association, said the report’s recommendations are “too little, too late” and the “ill-conceived” policy demonstrates contempt for Australia’s valuable agricultural communities.

“The result of the phase out will be the decimation of the viable, sustainable and safe sheep production industry in WA,” Smith said.

“Transport businesses alone are set to lose 30-40 per cent of their income, plus equipment value.

“This bill if enacted, will destroy regional communities reliant on agricultural economies.”

Smith also pointed out that there was “significant community support” against the ban,  as demonstrated by the Keep the Sheep campaign which has received over 61,000 signatures to their petition and has hosted two rallies in Perth and Muresk.

Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said the concerns expressed by the industry were reasonable but the ban needed to be in place.

“This is an issue where passions do run high, and that is understandable, given we are talking about, whilst it’s declining, the livelihoods of many of our regional farmers,” she told parliament.

“If this bill is not passed, uncertainty will continue for sheep producers, sheep supply chain businesses and large sheep by sea exporters.

“We need to ensure that those affected by this phase out have the opportunity to be well positioned, resilient and ready when the trade ends.”

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