Class action on party room agenda

29 Oct, 2014 03:00 AM
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Perhaps the worst ever decision any Australian government has ever made ...
Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

THE live export ban class action compensation claim was discussed in the Coalition’s joint party room meeting yesterday, by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and others.

One unnamed MP said the cattle exporters making the class action claim had been devastated because of a decision made by the previous government, and should not be put through the stress of having to take legal action to protect their interests.

Mr Abbott responded by describing Labor’s decision to suspend the live cattle trade as perhaps the worst ever decision any Australian government has ever made.

He said the good news was the live cattle trade is now booming.

However, he also said the government had to be very careful in assuming that everyone with a claim against the Commonwealth had a claim that has to be met.

Mr Abbott said the interests of justice had to be served along with the interests of taxpayers, and therefore the Commonwealth would run the case as a best practice litigant.

It’s understood a best practice litigant would mean the Commonwealth, as party to any litigation, would need to adhere to rules regarding proper conduct and avoid poor practices like deliberately delaying proceedings to try and exhaust the other party’s finances.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said – in terms of a mooted legal action underway – it would be “most unwise of any political figure to start playing judge and jury on these matters”.

“I spoke at the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) Congress last week and I made clear that I believe what happened with live cattle export bans was a problem, has been a problem and I think all of us have learnt lessons from that,” he said.

At the NFF Congress, Mr Shorten said the “pause in live exports, followed by drought was the cause of real hardship in the North”.

“We’ve all learned from that,” he said.

“Perhaps we should have done things differently then – but today we can be proud that Australia’s world-leading animal welfare system has put the trade on a sustainable footing, giving us opportunities to grow and reach new markets.”

Liberal MP Hume Angus Taylor said the single most important thing government could do for cattle producers was to get the live export trade going strongly again.

“This was a terrible decision by the previous Labor government,” he said.

“It crippled a crucial export industry, creating a glut in the market by filling the abattoirs and sharply driving down farm gate cattle prices. It’s still recovering today.

“I will not be commenting on the court action, but it’s well and truly open to these claimants to go ahead with their claim.

“What I will say is that we have to make sure that we spend taxpayer dollars well, we have to be a model litigant in this case and that’s what we will be doing.”

Former Agriculture Minister Senator Joe Ludwig was on leave overseas and his office referred inquiries to the Labor’s Shadow Agriculture Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon.

Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC) chief Alison Penfold said her group was not a party to the class action claim and “as such I won't be commenting on it”.

“We are however conscious that closure needs to be brought on the events of 2011 particularly for producers and other suppliers to the trade that were so negatively impacted by the ban,” she said.

“From an exporters’ perspective, we are very much future focused on building a sustainable industry.”

The issue is expected to be hotly debated at the live export industry’s biannual LIVEX Forum in Melbourne on Thursday, which will discuss, market access, reforms to the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, animal welfare and other activities or initiatives.

ALEC is also expected to confirm its new chairman this week, with former Labor powerbroker and one-time Agriculture Minister Simon Crean expected to replace outgoing chair, Peter Kane.

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Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

Sue Head
29/10/2014 7:36:36 AM

Oh they have such short memories. John Howard when in office closed the trade to Egypt. He wasn't sued. Industry closed the market to Bahrain & again to Egypt, after Rudd reopened it. They weren't sued. All abs were closed in Indo because the MLA couldn't come up with a adequate plan to addresses the issues highlighted in the 4Corners footage. Livecorp had also used tax payer funds to install Mark I restraint boxes, which didn't meet OIE standards and needed to removed in ALL abs. Abs also needed auditing & approval. They got $30 mill compo which wasn't all accessed/used.
JJ
29/10/2014 7:37:52 AM

The worst decision ever? Not even close. Heavily trumped by the Howard government's decision to go to war in Iraq without cause and without parliamentary endorsement. Shameful.
Ban live export
29/10/2014 8:25:20 AM

The MLA and other bodies supported the suspension at that time, don't they represent the farmers? Shouldn't the MLA be made to pay if these farmers are taking legal action to get further compensation. While we are at it I guess the Australian public, millions of us, should take a class action against these farmers for animal cruelty. Would a parent who gave over their child to a paedophile not be charged because this would be considered criminal. it is criminal that people in LE knowingly send animals os, festival of sacrifice…by name you know what this means.
Fernando
29/10/2014 8:28:10 AM

I am wondering how animal rights activists supporters feel about the possible significant compensation payments to the live cattle industry being paid out their own tax payers monies. Isn't it ironic?
Denis
29/10/2014 8:44:50 AM

I applaud the class action. Government needs to be responsible and Joe Ludwig's actions were not responsive to the majority of people. We now have the Liberals doing a similar thing with fuel excise. Joe Hockey must have had a mental breakdown. I hope the senate blocks supply so we can get rid of this new mongrel lot in Canberra. Tony Abbott refuses to join "team Australia" and work for the nation, choosing to sell out to overseas interests at every opportunity.
like it is
29/10/2014 8:54:22 AM

Worst decision in terms of what? PROFIT for farmers and exporters? Certainly wasnt the worst decision for the cattle...ah but they arent important now are they? This 'action' is a farce, meant to stir up sympathy for farmers nd at the same time dismissing the abuse and cruelty torture and suffering of those who pay and pay dearly. THE ANIMALS.
argis
29/10/2014 9:19:29 AM

I like your comments Fernando but I suspect the animal activists you speak of won't be too much out of pocket if the class action is successful. You have to pay tax before you can be affected by any pay outs.
King Billy
29/10/2014 9:25:21 AM

A Minister is only as good as the advice from his Department. So don't just blame poor old Joe. DoA needs the shake up from the top down and the self serving Bureaucrats who have been politicized need to be removed.
Archibald
29/10/2014 9:41:51 AM

BLE, You haven't got a clue, have you? The animal cruelty that occurred was overseas, it wasn't our farmers who did it. Most of the livestock producers had no idea about the cruelty going on!! What you are suggesting is a parent sending a child to a school where a unidentified paedophile works should be charged for doing so. What you are suggesting is just rubbish!!
Jeremy Lomman
29/10/2014 10:07:42 AM

Can we please spare a thought for what this did to the rural poor in Indonesia, at a time when their local food prices were highly susceptible to inflationary pressure, causing malnutrition in children, a spike in child mortality and spread of illness and disease due to poor households eat rubbish to survive because they cannot afford food. These are the absolute consequences for stopping the trade of food animals to developing countries - lest we forget.
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