Producers in Western Australia are not jumping the gun on Labor's proposed phase out of live sheep exports, saying they will welcome discussions with the incoming agricultural minster concerning the future of the $94 billion trade.
During the election campaign Labor's agricultural spokeswoman Julie Collins provided scant details on the policy to ban live sheep exports after the plan was leaked to media by an animal welfare organisation.
Labor told the Australian Alliance for Animals the industry was declining, and it would recommit to phasing out the live sheep export trade, "consistent with scientific advice and consultation with industry and the state government".
Labor did not set a deadline, although said it would keep in place the current moratorium on exports during the hot summer months.
Former Labor leader Bill Shorten, said to be a frontrunner in the agriculture portfolio, had promised at the 2019 election to phase out exports, but the policy, along with all others, was put under review following its defeat.
Pingelly farmer, WA Farmers president and director of WoolProducers Australis (WPA) John Hassell said he thought it "bizarre" that the Labor government were making policy based on an organisation that wanted to end all forms of animal exportation.
"That is who the Labor government was talking to (Australian Alliance for Animals) when they said they were going to ban the live sheep trade," Mr Hassell said.
"Australian Alliance for Animals director of policy Jed Goodfellow has since said it is not an either or with sheep and cattle - once we get rid of sheep we will get rid of cattle.
"That is who the now government was pandering to."
He said the live export industry was too important to the Australian economy to lose, being a $94 billion dollar trade and with the multiplier effect channels hundreds of billions of dollars to the Australian economy.
"The Labor party has also said it will can the ag visa, and then they have also said they want to increase local processing - so they want to can the ag visa, but not allow us to get the labour to do it," Mr Hassell said.
"There are so many anomalies in this I don't know where they are at."
Since 2018 the trade has predominately been a WA led industry, with 98pc of the annual live export turnoff of sheep leaving from the west.
The live export sales option available to WA producers is a crucial element in effective management of their livestock numbers.
WA producer and Livestock Collective director Steven Bolt said the industry should avoid jumping to conclusions and it is now about engaging in discussions about the future of the live sheep trade out of WA.
"It is now a priority for our leaders within the sheep industry to be meeting with the incoming agriculture minister, whoever that is, and engage in discussion about the new regulations and the improvements that have been made over the last four years," Mr Bolt said.
"I welcome talk about Bill Shorten potentially being ag minister - someone with his level of experience certainly gives me confidence."
Mr Bolt praised both the WA premier Mark McGowan and the Minister for Transport and Planning Rita Saffioti on their refusal to support Federal Labor's plan to ban live sheep export.
"Both McGowan and Saffioti's comments about the changes to regulation and throwing their support to the trade, from a local point of view, show how important it is and how successfully we have been able to implement new changes to the industry," Mr Bolt said.
He said the reality is, the extra million head of sheep cannot be killed in WA because there is simply not the processing space.
"The live export trade is hugely important to the sheep industry out of WA and the so-called solution of processing locally is just not achievable with the current amount of abattoir space available to process sheep locally," Mr Bolt said.
"I think the industry has demonstrated how successful it can be in the safe export of livestock out of WA.
"We have been dealt this card and how do we work with it to get the best outcome and make sure the longevity of the industry.
"Woolgrowers in WA need the confidence that the trade is going to be supported long-term and without that reassurance, growers will walk away from the sheep industry."
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