NFF condemns ‘appalling attack’ on cattle class action victims

10 July 2024

National Farmers’ Federation President David Jochinke has labelled the Federal Government’s recent correspondence on the live cattle class action as an “appalling attack on victims”.

In a letter the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus sent to the NFF and provided to media last week, the Government has accused the victims of trying to line their pockets.

“This is outrageously misleading and a disgraceful attempt to bluff the public and play games with people who’ve already lost so much,” said Mr Jochinke, who is in the Northern Territory this week, speaking with producers.

“We are talking about a wrongdoing from 2011, that’s still dragging on. Since that time people have died, businesses have collapsed and families have cracked under the pressure.

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“Yet the government continues with this contemptuous behaviour, ignorant of the devastation the unlawful ban brought upon people who continue to suffer financially and emotionally.”

The Government has indicated the Commonwealth’s offer is above the loss of expected profits for 2011-12.

Mr Jochinke said this did not account for the significant costs the victims suffered in the fallout from the ban.

“It’s incredibly misleading for the Government to claim the loss occurred only in a single year, and was confined only to expected profits.

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“Lost profits are only the tip of the iceberg. That doesn’t account for the market crash that followed the ban. It completely ignores the cattle deaths the ban caused, the losses exporters, veterinarians and other businesses in the supply chain suffered, or the forced property sales that ensued.

“The Government is meant to be a model litigant. Instead, it’s now briefing mischievous nonsense to journalists. The complete disregard for producers who just want to move on is astonishing.”

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In June 2020 a court found the Gillard Government had committed malfeasance in its decision to shut down the live cattle export trade from Australia in 2011.

The Brett Cattle Company Pty Ltd v Minister for Agriculture [2020] FCA 732 class action comprises 215 parties, including cattle producers, exporters and independent service providers, such as veterinarians and musterers, who were devastated by the Government’s decision to shut down the trade.

The Commonwealth has offered $215 million in settlement, which fell far short of the $500 million, plus interest, in damages the class is seeking.

The next hearing is scheduled for April 2025.

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