Australia: Support for live export ban grows as shutdown bill begins voyage through Parliament.

 

Support for live export ban grows as shutdown bill begins voyage through Parliament

Support for shutting down the live sheep export trade is gaining ground, with Labor set to formally endorse the proposal this week.

Key points:

·         The Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill will be introduced to Parliament today

·         Sussan Ley has backing of two Liberal colleagues, believes numbers will increase

·         Shadow Ag Minister says Labor will lock in support for the bill

Liberal MP Sussan Ley will today introduce a private member’s bill that would ban live sheep exports to the Middle East during the northern hemisphere summer months in 2019 and entirely close the sector down in five years.

“This has been a trade marked by disaster following debacle and that’s gone on for 33 years, it’s had a very sad history, a very dismal history,” she said.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon told AM Labor will lock in its support for what will be known as the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill.

“I will certainly be recommending to both the shadow cabinet and to the party room this week that we support the bill,” he told AM.

“I have no doubt that the bill reflects the view of the broader Labor Party and on that basis I’m very confident that the party room will embrace the bill.”

Labor’s support drastically increases Ms Ley’s chances of securing the numbers to debate the bill in the House of Representatives.

She already has the backing of Liberal colleagues Sarah Henderson and Jason Wood, and believes the numbers will increase.

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“I’ve had conversations with two or three that … are very supportive. I will leave it up to them about when they talk about their support and to what degree they might get behind this bill,” she said.

But her hopes of securing Ian Goodenough’s support, who indicated an interest in the bill, have fallen through.

“After considering all the factors I have decided to initially back the Government position on the McCarthy Review to implement a series of changes,” he said.

Where to from here?

History shows most private members’ bills do not pass Parliament, because debate has to be approved by the Government.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made it clear he has no intention of shutting down the trade because he believes the sector can be cleaned up.

The Government last week announced it would implement all 23 recommendations made by the McCarthy Review, which include reducing the number of sheep on vessels and jail time for those breaking the new laws.

Video: Vision of cramped conditions on board a live export ship was broadcast last month. (ABC News)

Ms Ley needs to rely on Labor, the crossbench and some of her colleagues to get the bill over the line, and Joel Fitzgibbon believes that is possible.

However it is dependent on several factors, including Labor winning the impending byelections.

“If Labor can restore its numbers to 69, with Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson we get to 71,” he said.

“We only need five more to get the absolute majority we need to pass the bill. We will find at least three of those on the crossbench and a number of the Government’s own ranks have approached me expressing their support privately for this bill.”

Video: Barnaby Joyce urges Government to resist shutdown of live sheep trade (ABC News)

Like with any private member’s bill it is a juggling act with numbers, but the uncertainty has not stopped Ms Ley.

“I in some ways compare this to the gay marriage debate where several private members bills were tabled over the years and they didn’t provide the immediate response but they were all part of building the case, making the argument and looking at it … with fresh eyes,” she said.

The live sheep export trade will be under the microscope in the coming months, as politicians watch to see if the sector has implemented changes to improve conditions for the animals.

Any major incidents at sea could see more Liberal MPs supporting the bill, such as Mr Goodenough.

“I believe the bill has merit and could be used as an end measure in the event that the Government’s reforms do not improve the industry,” he said.

Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch said there would have to be another rethink about the industry’s future if large numbers of sheep died at sea.

“I don’t want to do a knee jerk reaction on this,” he said.

“The reality is that if these changes mean that we don’t see that image again then we know we have achieved the right outcome. If those images surface again, then I know something has to change.”

 

 

IN THE NEWS: Live export ban faces prospect of passing Parliament after Labor signs on.

IN THE NEWS: On MAY 11, 2018

Labor will support Liberal MP Sussan Ley’s bill to outlaw live exports, meaning an outright ban on the trade within five years is, for the first time, a realistic prospect.

Fairfax Media can also reveal that a second government MP is considering co-sponsoring the bill, indicating that momentum for a ban is rapidly building in the government.

Labor’s spokesman for agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon, announced last week that the opposition no longer believed the industry – which is under fierce scrutiny after footage emerged showing thousands of sheep “boiling alive” on a ship heading to the Middle East – was incapable of repair.

However, he had stopped short of supporting the bill to be presented to Parliament on May 21 by Ms Ley, a former government cabinet minister who represents a regional seat in NSW.

Fairfax Media understands Labor has since been in intensive negotiations with Ms Ley over the contents of her bill. It agreed to support the bill after insisting it gave farmers a minimum five-year transition period to wind down the trade rather than face an immediate ban.

However, the northern summer trade, where the extreme conditions can cause mass fatalities of animals, would be banned from 2019.

MPs pushing for a ban believe they also have enough support in the Senate to pass the bill.

Liberal MP Jason Wood told Fairfax Media that he is considering co-sponsoring Ms Ley’s bill for the trade to be gradually abolished despite the Turnbull government resisting a “knee jerk” reaction.

Another Victorian Liberal backbencher, Sarah Henderson, said she will also second Ms Ley’s bill. The backbench push comes in spite of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s personal plea for the bill to be dropped.

Mr Wood said no Australian could treat their pets the way live exporters had been treating livestock.

Last weekend, Fairfax Media published gruesome new footage of sheep that had died en route to the Middle East. Vets said the sheep had effectively “boiled to death” in the heat.

“Under Australian law, if a dog was left in a car on a hot summer day, that would be regarded as animal cruelty; yet we have 65,000 sheep at a time being transported in these awful conditions,” Mr Wood said.

Mr Wood, the member for La Trobe, said there had been so many documented instances of animal abuse on board live export ships that calls for a ban could no longer be described as a “knee-jerk reaction”.

“This is something I have called for, for a long time. I’ve been given assurances from the industry before that animals wouldn’t suffer. I’ve obviously been conned,” he said.

Mr Wood wants the government to back the ban but, if he decides to co-sponsor it, up to three government MPs could join with Labor and the crossbenchers in the lower house to have the bill passed.

But with Labor down four MPs in the lower house following the resignations of four of its MPs and crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie – all caught up in the dual citizenship fiasco – any debate and vote is unlikely to happen until after byelections are held.

If the government refuses to grant the necessary procedure to allow the bill to be debated, those in favour of the ban will require an absolute majority of 76 to suspend standing orders and have it brought on for a vote.

If Labor retains its seats in the byelections, an absolute majority would require three government MPs, along with the crossbench votes of Ms Sharkie, the Greens’ Adam Bandt and independents Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan.

The Liberal party will be campaigning hard to regain the once-Liberal seat of Mayo in Adelaide, which it lost at the last election to Ms Sharkie, who stood as a candidate for the now-departed Senator Nick Xenophon.

Labor will expect to retain Freemantle in Western Australia, although faces slimmer margins in Longman in Queensland and Braddon in Tasmania.

Any improvement to Mr Turnbull’s lower house majority could jeopardise the chances of the live export bill passing parliament, unless more government MPs are willing to cross the floor.

Next week, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud will receive the review he commissioned after the footage was first aired. He told radio station 5AA on Thursday that transitioning the industry, worth $1.8 billion, to one of local processing and exporting “was definitely a possibility”.

But he said the refrigeration required to support chilled meat imports in hot Middle Eastern countries was still “decades away” and, if Australia vacated the space, it would be filled by other countries with potentially lesser animal welfare standards.

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One Response

  1. So much suffering over 5 years. Please please please help however we can.

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