Further doubt has been cast over the future of the live export industry as the Labor party calls for a complete ban on the practise in Australia. This news follows the scandal in which footage was revealed showing over 2,500 sheep dying from heat exposure and poor conditions on a live export ship last year.
Joel Fitzgibbon, Labor’s agricultural spokesperson said that the industry was no longer viable and that it needed to end in a matter of years. He acknowledged that it would take time to gradually remove the industry but it that it “can’t be a decade”.
Mr Fitzgibbon urged Australia to move quickly because the industry’s market was changing and that in order to achieve “sustainable profitability” the transition would need to start immediately however he was not able to provide a specific timeframe.
Previous Labor policy had been to enact a temporarily suspension of sheep exports during the summer which is the season causing most livestock deaths. Despite this, Mr Fitzgibbon said that the recent scandals had prompted Labor’s new stance of a complete ban.
Unsurprisingly the Government has come down hard against Labor’s proposition, warning that it will cost jobs and that it showed how “reckless” Labor is, according the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The Prime Minister went on to say that the decisions on “big export industries” should be made with “science and information”. He said Australia should regulate exports on an “informed basis” and “not an emotional one”.
Within a matter of weeks a government review into the live export sector is due to report its findings. David Littleproud, the Federal Agricultural Minister who said the scandal would not lead to a ban, has said that any changes in the industry would be based off that report.
Mr Littleproud said that Labor was capitalising on the scandal with a “knee-jerk ban” 2 weeks before the report was due. He said businesses and farmers were “traumatised” by Labor’s 2011 ban on live exports and must be even more worried now.
Animals Australia and the RSPCA have both said they would give $500,000 towards a fund that would support farmers while the industry transitioned to a ban. Both groups want the government to supplement these funds in order to make sure farmers are not disenfranchised.
Gary Humphries, chairman of the RSPCA said the fund was the welfare groups backing up their history of statements about animal welfare and live exports. He said that they were “prepare to put in money” so that farmers were not “left in a lurch” as adjustments to the industry were made.