Agriculture Minister open to live exports ban

Agriculture Minister open to live exports ban

AGRICULTURE Minister David Littleproud is open to a ban on live sheep exports to the Middle East but only if a scientific review finds it cannot continue.

The Minister has rejected a "kneejerk" call by Opposition leader Bill Shorten to immediately suspend live sheep exports until a review into northern summer sheep exports is completed in three weeks' time.

Dodgy live exporters were a "cancer" that needed to be "cut out," Mr Littleproud said today.

But the Nationals MP said there was still a future for the trade.

He vowed to make any decisions on the future of live exports based on evidence not emotion or politics.

It comes after shocking footage of aminal cruelty on shipments to the Middle East were made public earlier this month.

"We have to be sensible through this because you know who hurts out of this? The farmers. People who have done no wrong," Mr Littleproud told ABC radio.

"We wait for the evidence. We do this in a systematic and sensible way."

A review of exports during the northern summer, led by vet Michael McCarthy, is due to hand down its final report on May 11.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says he is open to a ban of live sheep exports to the region but only if a review finds it could not continue. Picture: AAP
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says he is open to a ban of live sheep exports to the region but only if a review finds it could not continue. Picture: AAP

Mr Littleproud indicated he was open to a ban on live sheep exports to the region but only if the review found it could not continue.

He said there was a future for the trade but Australians needed to have confidence in it.

"If I'm looking at evidence that Dr McCarthy comes back with that says there is no way in any sense that this could be undertaken then we have to listen to that," he said.

"We have to listen to the scientific evidence."

Mr Littleproud said he was looking at whether to introduce permanent observers aboard transport ships that would have to report back to the regulator daily.

He said exporters would foot the bill.

Mr Littleproud expected other recommendations would come out of the review.

Distressed sheep on-board a ship from Australia to the Middle East. Picture: Animals Australia
Distressed sheep on-board a ship from Australia to the Middle East. Picture: Animals Australia

"There's a lot of operators that have done the right thing. But there are those that aren't - I'm going to weed them out. They're a cancer and they're going to get weeded out, they're going to get cut out and they're not going to be allowed back in."

Yesterday, Mr Shorten said "only a monster" would think it was fine for the live exports industry to continue without any change. He called for an immediate suspension of live sheep exports to the northern summer that weren't already through the farm gate.

Labor's call for a suspension in the trade comes after former Liberal minister Sussan Ley signalled she would introduce a private member's bill to ban live sheep exports to the Middle East.

WA Labor backbencher Josh Wilson also went further than his leader, calling for the trade to end.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called for an immediate suspension of live sheep exports to the northern summer. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called for an immediate suspension of live sheep exports to the northern summer. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Mr Shorten's deputy Tanya Plibersek said she would like to see live exports phased out over time.

Labor has also called for the government to establish an independent inspector. The call has been backed by the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council and will be the subject of a separate review into the agriculture department.

"I don't care who thought of the idea; let's see if it's a good one," Mr Littleproud said.

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack yesterday rejected calls for a ban, citing the repercussion of the Gillard government's decision to shut down the live cattle trade in 2011.

- with AAP



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