Coalition members reject Bill to ban live export

In a dissenting report published today, Coalition members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture have completely rejected the Albanese Labor government’s Bill to ban the live export of sheep, after rushed committee hearings in Canberra and Muresk, Western Australia.

Deputy Chair of the committee, Western Australian Liberal MP Rick Wilson, said that Labor members who form the majority of the committee had completely ignored the impassioned pleas of 2000 rural and regional people who attended the Muresk hearing on June 12.

“The rushed timeframe provided to the committee by Labor Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt meant that of the 13,000 submissions received, 4324 of those that were less than 250 words, or 35 per cent of submissions received, were not processed and taken into consideration,” Mr Wilson said.

“The timeframe of four working days for people to make submissions at the busiest time of the year for the farming community, and over a long weekend, was totally inadequate; it demonstrates that Mr Watt is trying to bury the live exports issue rather than champion the agricultural industry which he is supposed to be serving.

“Minister Watt has shown absolute contempt for the people of regional WA, and he has used the Labor members of the committee as human shields.”

Liberal National Party of Queensland committee member Andrew Willcox MP said of the 2000 farmers and rural people who attended the hearing in Muresk, many would have gladly accepted the opportunity to speak if additional hearings had been made available.

“The overwhelming majority of substantive submissions made to the Standing Committee spoke of the massive negative impact that the government’s Bill will have on individual agricultural enterprises and the rural communities that service them,” Mr Willcox said.

“Labor’s Bill has no justification in science or in the vast majority of evidence provided to the committee.

“A more orderly process would have allowed for further hearings in affected areas of Western Australia and other states.”

As part of the committee’s deliberations, Mr Willcox tabled 11 questions into any economic modelling that might have been conducted into the banning of live exports. At the time the Coalition members lodged their dissenting report, no response to these questions had been received from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Liberal Party committee member Aaron Violi MP said Mr Watt’s unachievable and disingenuous timeframe precipitated a hurried committee process that was never going to deliver a fair outcome for farming communities.

“In the House of Representatives on May 30 the Coalition had moved an urgent motion that the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee with a realistic reporting deadline of 8 October, but Labor and the Greens voted that down,” Mr Violi said.

“Scrambling to save face, Minister Watt then directed the Standing Committee to perform the impossible task of taking evidence in two weeks.”

In light of the sham inquiry process unleashed by Minister Watt, and overwhelming community opposition, Coalition members of the Standing Committee now call on him to scrap his Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill.

Failing that, Coalition members call on Mr Watt to institute a full Senate inquiry into the Bill, as per usual parliamentary protocol, so that all affected communities can have the opportunity to be heard in an orderly, fair and comprehensive manner.

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