The live export industry has let down farmers and animals and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud doesn’t intend to let those in the business to dictate their future.
Mr Littleproud insists he’ll be the one giving the industry directions to change its culture.
But that doesn’t mean he will rush a decision on the future of live exports, saying Labor had “panicked” by announcing it would phase out the trade following the release of footage showing the horrific treatment of animals on board a Middle East-bound ship in 2016.
“You can’t lead a nation through tough times if you don’t have the ticker, if you don’t have the temperament to wait for the facts, to wait for the science,” Mr Littleproud told parliament on Tuesday, reaffirming his intention to wait for a report due later this month.
“Two weeks is all (Labor) had to wait but instead they put the uncertainty of the livelihoods of those people in Western , those people who have done no wrong, on the chopping block.”
WA is by far the biggest exporter, accounting for 85 per cent of ‘s live sheep exports.
Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the debate extended beyond animal welfare to the rights of workers on export ships and the economics of the trade.
The opposition wants to transition to a red meat industry.
“We can’t transition sheep meat producers out of the live export trade in a hurry but we can do it and we’re best placed to do it if we’re working together,” Mr Fitzgibbon said appealing for a bipartisan approach.
But farmers are digging in, arguing the under-fire trade can be cleaned up despite horrific revelations of animal cruelty.
WAFarmers president and sheep farmer Tony York said ending the $250 million industry would hurt farmers.
“Clean up the trade. If the trade is stopped it will have very significant consequences, particularly in Western ,” Mr York told AAP.
Mr York is adamant Labor’s pledged transition to processed meat is no solution.
“The customers want live animals, they don’t just want boxed and processed meat,” he said.
Mr York suggested improving standards on ships, greater oversight, reducing sheep density and targeting voyages to visit less humid ports first to help clean up the industry.
Senior federal Nationals MPs rejected growing calls to ban the trade from Liberal backbenchers, the Greens and independent senator Derryn Hinch.
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said mums and dads would be hurt by ending live exports, similar to the Gillard government’s ban on cattle exports in 2011.
NSW Nationals senator John Williams conceded the industry was going through a tough time, but said it could be fixed.