Laws to ban live sheep exports by 2028 pass parliament following lengthy debate (2024)

In short:

Live sheep exports by sea will be phased out over the next four years, after laws banning the trade passed parliament on Monday.

Earlier in the day, opponents met with the prime minister to request a Senate inquiry into the legislation.

What's next?

WA Premier Roger Cook says he will continue to negotiate for additional support for farmers affected by the laws.

The federal government's laws to ban Australia's live sheep trade have passed parliament, despite last-minute attempts by opponents to postpone the bill's passage.

The Senate on Monday night voted on the legislation to end the trade by May 2028, after the bill passed the lower house last week.

The phase-out was a 2022 Labor election commitment and has proved popular with animal activist groups.

It has also sparked widespread protests from those concerned about the impact the laws could have on farming communities across Western Australia, which is the only Australian state or territory to continue to export live sheep by sea.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt told parliament a $107 million transition package would be adequate support for affected farmers.

Laws to ban live sheep exports by 2028 pass parliament following lengthy debate (1)

"This policy is about keeping jobs in Western Australia, rather than sending those jobs offshore. In doing so, we will be putting forward a strong future for the Western Australian sheep industry," he said.

Mr Watt acknowledged the concerns raised by those in the industry, but said the policy had "widespread" support across the country.

"The latest surveys I've seen are demonstrating that even in Western Australia … this policy that we have of phasing out this industry, has the support of about 70 per cent of Western Australians," he said.

Farmers 'sold out', NFF says

National Farmers' Federation (NFF) president David Jochinke said there was widespread dismay over the passing of the legislation.

Laws to ban live sheep exports by 2028 pass parliament following lengthy debate (2)

"Farming communities have been sold out for political gain, and they're gutted," he said.

"The government vowed to kill off the jobs of farmers, shearers and truckies in WA. Credit to them, they've executed that job with ruthless efficiency."

Mr Jochinke said the ban was an "ill-informed, vote-grabbing policy".

"The facts are that unless this ban is reversed, farming communities, animals and Australia's strategic trade partnerships will all suffer," he said.

"We now have a dangerously unscientific precedent that will be celebrated tonight by groups who want to shut down Australian livestock production. This isn't just about live sheep. This government has just told every farmer in Australia to sleep with one eye open."

'Devastating day': Littleproud

Federal Nationals leader David Littleproud said Labor had turned its back on the farming industry and treated farmers with contempt.

Laws to ban live sheep exports by 2028 pass parliament following lengthy debate (3)

"Today is a devastating day for the farming industry in Western Australia and around the entire country," he said.

"Farmers now know Labor is willing to sell them out and shut down a successful, world-class trade based on ideology."

Mr Littleproud said the move would destroy the livelihoods of 3,000 people.

"This decision is simply Labor bowing down to animal activists, even though Australia has the world's best animal welfare standards. It is senseless to remove ourselves from the market, because the Middle East will simply find other markets which don't have our high animal welfare standards," he said.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Littleproud asked parliament to delay the passage of the legislation, in favour of a Senate inquiry and further discussion.

"There is plenty of time to sit down and make sure that they understand and explain the science and the economics as to why they're shutting this industry down," he said.

"That's the respect that should be shown to Western Australian producers, to industry, so that they understand the ideology behind this decision."

Communities impacted

The Keep the Sheep delegation met with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday afternoon in a last-ditch effort to sway the government.

Industry veterinarian Holly Ludeman said the group left the meeting feeling "disheartened".

"He didn't really seem to understand the nuances of the impacts on our communities," she said.

Laws to ban live sheep exports by 2028 pass parliament following lengthy debate (4)

She said the group would mobilise in coming weeks to campaign against Federal Labor MPs in marginal seats like Tangney, Hasluck, Swan, Pearce and Cowan.

"We will target every marginal seat across the country that is Labor held if they don't listen to us," WA Farmers president John Hassell told reporters before the vote.

Keep the Sheep spokesman Ben Sutherland said the legislation would have a significant impact on regional communities.

"This bill is going to take my livelihood away from me, 30 per cent of that," he said.

"It affects my IGA, it affects my pub, it affects my sporting groups, it affects everything that goes on in my rural community.

"They need to come and see that, to see what damage they’re doing to us."

WA premier wants more support

WA Premier Roger Cook said on Monday morning he was piling the pressure on the federal government to do more to help farmers affected by the ban.

Mr Cook told ABC Radio Perth it was crucial the Commonwealth listened to the concerns of farmers and did all it could to provide support during the phasing out of live sheep exports.

Laws to ban live sheep exports by 2028 pass parliament following lengthy debate (5)

"You could say they're not listening because they passed the laws, but they had an election commitment with respect to live sheep exports, I respect that," he said.

"But it will have a detrimental effect to WA farmers, so that's why we want them to do that little bit more just to make sure we make this transition as smooth as possible.

"What we've been doing is working with the federal government to say 'you have to do more, we need more assistance for WA farmers to assist them in terms of this transition'.

"Our modelling shows it'll have about a $123 million impact on the industry, and the loss of about 400 jobs.

"We met with Minister Watt last week and we're very hopeful that there'll be a positive outcome."

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Laws to ban live sheep exports by 2028 pass parliament following lengthy debate (2024)

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