Labor keeps live sheep export panel report secret

24 November 2023

Labor is keeping the live sheep export industry in the dark, after refusing to release findings of its Independent Panel Report.

Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister David Littleproud submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the 230-page report to be released.

However, Mr Littleproud’s request has been denied, with the report to remain a secret, after the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry responded that it was refusing access due to Cabinet-in-Confidence.

Mr. Littleproud said Labor needed to be transparent about the report, which Agriculture Minister Murray Watt received a month ago after a live sheep export phase-out panel travelled around Western Australia but failed to properly consult with the industry.

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“I am incredibly disappointed that Labor sees fit to remain secretive about phasing out the live sheep export trade,” Mr Littleproud said.

“If Agriculture Minister Murray Watt is so confident in his decision to phase out the industry, why won’t he release details of the report?

“Labor is destroying the livelihoods of more than 3000 people who work in the trade and an industry worth $85 million.

“Minister Watt didn’t have the courage to travel with the panel and look farmers in the eye himself to say he was stopping the trade – now he doesn’t even have the courage to release the report.”

According to Meat and Livestock Australia, some sheep and lamb categories have fallen by up to 70 percent in the sale yards in the last 12 months.

Mr Littleproud added Labor had allowed sheep prices to flatline but also failed to investigate why families were still paying high prices for lamb at the supermarket, through an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigation.

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“We now know Minister Watt made decisions without being given proper modelling or details into the impact of banning live sheep exports and without evidence.

“This is an industry that has already lost confidence, with sheep prices plummeting.

“Labor is destroying a whole industry. It will impact the sheep and wool industry across Australia.

“Farmers are broken over this decision – it is also having an enormous emotional impact on thousands of people.

“If Minister Watt is so confident in his decision and the science behind it, details about the Independent Panel Report must be released.

“A future Coalition government with The Nationals will ensure the live sheep export trade is saved. Unlike Labor, The Nationals support Australian farmers and their exports.”