THE awarding of almost $3m in damages to Northern Territory live cattle suppliers the Brett Cattle Company for losses incurred from the 2011 ban on the trade to Indonesia has paved the way for substantial compensation claims from hundreds more graziers and beef industry businesses.
The Federal Government could well face a compensation bill in the hundreds of millions as a result of the Gillard Government decision which has long been described by the beef industry as a knee-jerk reaction and one which wreaked havoc on the northern cattle game.
In a case management hearing today, Justice Steven Rares put a figure on the value of the cattle involved: $2.15 per kilogram for steers and $1.95 for heifers.
That price will be locked in for the future of the class action, which could involve several hundred additional litigants.
The Bretts, who acted as lead litigants, have been awarded $2.936m in compensation, plus costs, after the Federal Court found the decision by then agricultural minister Joe Ludwig to implement a total ban on the live export trade with Indonesia to be invalid.
That was the full amount they were seeking.
Justice Rares also today determined, from the evidence before him in the Brett case, that at least 88,000 head of cattle could have been exported to Indonesia had the ban not been put in place.
Facilitator of the court action, former Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association chief executive officer Tracey Hayes said that was a significant outcome.
"That number is the minimum head. Once we start to work through evidence from the members of the class, if numbers exceed that figure we can argue greater capacity of the supply chains to handle more numbers," she explained.
"The other important thing established today was that three common questions have been answered - the ban was not valid; the tort of misfeasance in public office did occur and had the minister acted lawfully he would have allowed the trade to continue for those supply chains operating in an appropriate manner.
"Further members of the class action will now not be required to prove those three facts."
The class action is still open, however Mrs Hayes said a closing date would soon be advertised.
It is expected parties will return to court some time this year to determine the quantum of damages for other members of the class action.
The clock is now ticking on the current Federal Government's option to appeal the ruling, which was handed down on June 2. The Morrison Government has until July 27 to appeal.
"Our message to the Prime Minister on that has not changed," Mrs Hayes said.
"Compensation is one thing but closure is another. We don't want to have to continue to fight this but we will if we have to.
"We don't believe that is in the public interest for the Commonwealth to appeal."