July 15, 2024

Western Australian farmers are promising the fight is not over after the Albanese government’s live sheep export ban passed the Senate.

The trade will be phased out by 2028, but opponents say they’ll target marginal Labor seats in a bid to overturn the ban.

“Make no mistake. The ‘Farmy Army’ and us and all our people behind us here, are coming to get them,” Keep the Sheep organiser Ben Sutherland said.

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“Old [Prime Minister Anthony] Albanese needs to look in his mirror cos I’ll be there when he’s looking.”

The live sheep export ban passed the Senate last night after the Labor government guillotined debate, sounding the death knell for live sheep exports by sea by May 2028.

WoolProducers chief executive Jo Hall said they wouldn’t let the government “break the sheep’s back”.

Shearing Industry Association president Darren Spencer raised concerns for the people he represents.

“Where are we left in this situation? What do we transition to?” he asked.

“There’s nothing to transition to in shearing.”

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The government has pointed to dwindling demand for live sheep exports – $415 million in 2002-2003 down to $77 million in 2022-2023 – amid a 300 per cent surge in demand for processed sheep meat over the same period.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said it was what the people had voted for.

“This is not a matter of compensating people for getting out of an industry – it’s about helping the industry adjust to a new future based on more onshore processing,” Watt said.

The federal government has set aside $107 million to help support farmers through the phase out.

State Labor said it wasn’t enough and pledged to continue to lobby Canberra for more.

Keep the Sheep campaigners have been driving large convoys around WA to highlight their cause.

Now they’re setting their sights on marginal Labor-held seats ahead of next year’s federal election.

“We need to keep all the channels open – the markets open, the ships,” Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook said. 

“Everybody needs to be prepared for a change of government because that change of government will actually see this trade continue.”

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