top of page
Sheep Producers Australia - Opening Statement Inquiry into Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024

13 June 2024

Opening Statement - Inquiry into Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the inquiry. Sheep Producers Australia is the national peak body for the Australian sheepmeat industry, representing close to 20,000 sheep production businesses. Sheep Producers Australia opposes the Australian Government's policy to phase out live sheep exports by sea and the Bill, which seeks to legislate the policy.

Despite the unique challenges presented by climate, geography, and isolation, Western Australian (WA) sheep producers have demonstrated extraordinary resilience and ingenuity to build thriving businesses which sustain their families and contribute to the well-being of their communities.

With a strong focus on merino production, the WA sheep flock plays an important role in sustaining the national flock, ensuring vital breeding stock is maintained to support periods of rebuilding on both the east and west coast of Australia after drought. This is not only critical for the long-term success of the Australian sheepmeat industry, but also the wool and meat processing sectors.

However, for WA sheep producers to sustain their systems in the face of isolation, strong farmgate competition for sheep, driven by access to markets including live sheep exports, must be maintained. Grazier competition in WA is limited, with producers relying on the competitive tension provided by live export to ensure stronger competition, fairer farmgate pricing, and sustainable businesses.

The Government’s decision to recommit to its policy to phase out live sheep export by sea removes a critical demand for WA sheep, thereby reducing farmgate competition and threatening the livelihoods of the families, businesses and communities reliant on the WA sheep supply chain.

This decision also risks the enviable trading reputation that the Australian sheep industry has built with global customers over decades.

Given the indifference to the outstanding improvements and performance of the live sheep export trade since 2018, and the lack of consultation and due diligence completed by Government when recommitting to this policy, an alarming precedent has been set for future agricultural policy decision making.

To quote Senator the Hon Murray Watt on his approach to working with the sector if elected provided an address to the National Press Club in 2022: the policy decisions made for Australian agriculture must be evidence-based, strategic, inclusive and collaborative. To divert from this threatens the future of the industry, businesses, families and communities. Government has a responsibility to ensure that no Australian is worse off or left behind. However, should this Bill be passed, that is what will occur for thousands of Western Australians.

Consultation on policy implementation has been done in a rushed and unprofessional manner that has left many producers feeling removed from a process that will impact their families, businesses and communities.

Less than four years is not enough time for sheep producers to adjust their production systems, nor is it sufficient time for processor capacity development, growth of airfreight or sea freight capability, and the expansion of new offshore markets for sheepmeat. The transition package is inadequate for industry – and it is inadequate to meet the stated objectives of the Albanese Government to grow onshore processing and increase the value of WA sheep production.

If this Bill and the policy proceeds, the package needs to be revisited to comply with the Government’s own announced terms. Furthermore, the critical question that has not been answered is how to provide producers with the same level of farmgate competition that they currently have to ensure the industry remains viable into the future.

Bonnie Skinner Chief Executive Officer

Delivered 13 June 2024

Sheep Producers Australia's submission into the Inquiry is available here

bottom of page