Live Exports


Yesterday, in the House of Representatives, three Liberal MPs who said they’d vote to phase out the trade back flipped and voted to support the live sheep trade.

Indeed Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson introduced a private member’s bill to phase out the trade but put their own political ambitions first by accepting a promotion and voting against their own proposition.

Given the vote was 72-70, their votes were the difference. Many Australians will be disappointed by their actions.

I spoke in support of Sussan Ley’s Private Members Bill (Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018) and you can read a transcript of my speech here.

It is clear now that the only way to phase out the cruel live sheep trade is to elect a Shorten Labor Government.

Labor has listened to the overwhelming community concerns and the scientific experts and we will continue the fight to put an end to live sheep exports.



Private Member’s Bill to Ban Live Sheep Export Abandoned

Statement from Labor’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon:

Members of the Australian community concerned about the immense cruelty suffered by sheep exported on voyages to the Middle East will be disappointed by the decision of Liberal MPs Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson to abandon their Private Member’s Bill to phase out the live sheep trade.

Both members accepted a political promotion in the Morrison Government and now will now argue their new positions deny them the opportunity to “cross the floor”.

Prior to her promotion, Sussan Ley had been firm and vocal about the failings in the live sheep export trade saying the trade was “built on the suffering of animals”.

In a speech in Parliament on 21 May, she asserted “The case for continuing long-haul live sheep exports fails on both economic and animal welfare grounds” and was crystal clear in her determination to act on high levels of community outrage over the cruel and unnecessary suffering of exported sheep.

Liberal Member for Corangamite Sarah Henderson strongly supported Sussan Ley’s campaign to end the cruelty by seconding the Private Member’s Bill. But she too is now silent and has abandoned what she, not so long ago, believed was ‘intolerable’.

Walking away from convictions is a common theme of the divided, dysfunctional and unstable Morrison Government.

But Labor won’t give up the fight.


UPDATE 12 JULY 2018:

Labor welcomes the Turnbull Government’s belated action to deny an Emanuels related company a live sheep export permit which would have seen 60,000 sheep shipped into the height of the searing Middle East summer.

The exporter appeared to have legally sidestepped the Government’s export licence suspension and Minister Littleproud initially said that he was powerless to stop the voyage. It appears the sector continues to enjoy favoured treatment on his watch.

David Littleproud must stand up and explain to the Australian people exactly what is going on. Reports via the media is not good enough for our farmers or the millions of Australians concerned about animal welfare issues.

Labor has called for a total and immediate ban on the northern summer live sheep trade and has also proposed a plan which would phase out the live sheep trade within five years. The Government is refusing to allow the Parliament to vote on Labor’s proposal.


UPDATE 23 MAY 2018:

Labor’s support for Sussan Ley’s Private Members Bill (Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018)

Labor supports the bill and, should it come to a vote, we will back the bill.

Labor has called on the Government to come on board with community expectations and allow the bill to be debated and voted on.  Malcolm Turnbull has refused.

An absolute majority is requires on the floor of the House of Representatives to force the Government to bring the legislation on for debate.  This needs not only the support of crossbenchers but also for a number of Government members to “cross the floor”.

We are hopeful that Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson together with their back bench supporters will be prepared to reconsider their position.  We may then reach a majority of 76, whereby we can call for a vote on the bill.  If the bill passes the House, we expect it would then be successful in the Senate with the support of the Greens and Derryn Hinch.


UPDATE 18 MAY 2018:

Labor’s response to the McCarthy Review into the Northern Summer Live Sheep Trade

Despite many chances, the live sheep trade has been unable to demonstrate it is capable of meeting reasonable animal welfare standards.

Malcolm Turnbull said he wanted to take a science-based approach but has chosen to ignore the advice of both the Australian Veterinary Association and RSPCA. They say live sheep cannot be transported to the Middle East during the northern summer period without suffering extreme heat stress.

This is why Labor will put a halt to the summer trade and phase-out the rest of the trade as quickly as is possible.

Labor will work with farmers, unions and business to develop a Strategic Red Meat Industry Plan to help sheep farmers make the transition to a model which delivers sustainable profitability.

In addition to offering something better for farmers, Labor’s plan will allow more value to be added to the product here in Australia, create more jobs here in Australia, and deliver a better result for the Australian economy.


UPDATE 3 MAY 2018:

Labor has announced a transition plan to end live exports:

“A Labor Government will develop a Red Meat Strategic Industry Plan and we will begin a transition, a plan to lift producer profitability, a transition to an end to live sheep export but a plan that both lifts producer profitability and creates more value and more jobs here in Australia.”

Joel Fitzgibbon

Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

ABC NSW Country Hour

Labor understands that there is opposition to live export and that the community is shocked and dismayed by the recent disturbing revelations of animal cruelty in the industry.

While disappointing, it’s not surprising these incidents continue to occur. Senior members of the Turnbull Government constantly provide unqualified support to the industry.

Labor extended an offer to the Government to work with it - on a bipartisan basis - to strengthen our regulatory and accountability regimes.

However, a leaked letter has revealed the Turnbull Government has turned a deliberate blind eye to animal welfare warnings in the live export industry.

The Coalition Government has:

  • Ignored both industry and animal welfare group warnings of systemic failure;
  • Delayed the review of the Australian Standards for Livestock Export (ASEL);
  • Rejected Labor’s commitment for a review of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS);
  • Abolished Labor’s Inspector General of Animal Welfare;
  • Rejected Labor’s proposal for an Independent Office of Animal Welfare;
  • Rejected regular Ministerial reports to Parliament on investigations into reported breaches;
  • Abolished the Australia Animal Welfare Advisory Committee;
  • De-funded the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy;
  • Abolished the Animal Welfare Unit within the Department of Agriculture; and
  • Allowed exemptions from animal welfare standards without review and sun-setting clauses.

Ongoing reform and strengthening oversight in the live export sector came to a halt when the Abbott/Turnbull Government was elected.  

When Labor announced its 6 Point Plan for Animal Welfare during the 2016 Election Campaign, Barnaby Joyce reacted with condemnation and declared a link between Labor’s 2011 live export suspension and asylum seeker arrivals.

Belatedly, the Turnbull Government has commissioned four reviews into the regulation of the industry, but the timeframe on some of these mean they will not be complete until after the next election.

Labor has been clear from the start that we don’t think the inquiry into the live sheep trade during the northern summer will find that the trade is sustainable in the long-term.

Bill Shorten said two weeks ago, that the industry has had plenty of chances to clean up its act, and it’s failed. The government has had plenty of chances to properly regulate, and it’s failed.

Whilst we are interested to see the outcome of the review, the industry itself has conceded that it is not possible to guarantee there will be no future events like those we saw on 60 Minutes.

This is why Labor is committed to working with the industry on a future that doesn’t rely on live sheep exports. The Government should be doing that right now.

Labor will work with farmers, unions and business to develop a Strategic Red Meat Industry Plan to assist sheep farmers to transition. A transition would take a number of years.

Labor’s plan will lift farmer profits; it will add more value here in Australia, to create more jobs in Australia, in fact, create jobs right along the supply chain.

What Labor is talking about is transitioning in a smart, orderly and strategic way – creating value here, creating jobs here.  We believe this can be done to benefit the farmers as well because if we can pursue those the high value markets they will benefit.