Govt divided on controversial sheep trade

sheep2Banning live sheep exports in Australia won’t stop animal cruelty in the controversial trade, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud argues.

“If it’s not our animals it’ll be someone else’s,” he said on Monday, calling for calm ahead of the release of a report into the practice.

Littleproud expects to take the report to cabinet as early as Tuesday and release a public response later this week. But the federal government will be under pressure to make a move on live sheep exports when former cabinet minister Sussan Ley introduces a bill to end the trade. Her private member’s bill will be introduced to parliament next Monday and has the support of backbench colleagues Sarah Henderson and Jason Wood.

WA Liberal Ian Goodenough has also raised concerns. Labor’s policy is to phase out the live trade, but leader Bill Shorten won’t say whether his party would back Ley’s bill. He said on Friday the viability of an industry that relies upon cruelty must be questioned but any transition away must look after farmers, and “constructive” talks were underway with Ley about her proposal. But Littleproud on Monday accused the opposition of panicking.

“If you think we can just ban this trade and world trade will stop, you’re kidding yourself,” he said. “There’s still demand for live animals around the world … we’ve got a responsibility to stay and get this right.”

Littleproud commissioned the report into live sheep exports after horrific footage was released showing sheep dying on a ship from Western Australia to the Middle East in 2016. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tried to talk Ley out of introducing her bill, while former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has pointed to the damaging 2011 suspension of live cattle exports by the then Labor government as a reason to oppose the ban.

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