Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024

It will not be any surprise to anyone who knows I am a farmer that I strongly oppose this bill. I support WA’s efforts to Keep the Sheep and I thank every farmer out there working their heart out. And don’t forget: no farmers, no food. For goodness sake, Labor, for a change, how about listening to our hard-working common-sense farmers and not just elitist fanatics and activists? We know with this legislation that, if you are a farmer in Australia, Labor is coming for you and your right to farm in some form or another, because as farmers we know we just don’t matter. No industry is safe when the government gets into bed with the latest outrage elite city based extremist, and certainly not agriculture.

Labor are literally biting the hand that feeds them. As a farmer, I know farmers might be only small in population and therefore don’t matter to this government but we produce the most fabulous and critically nutritious food that supports and sustains all Australians and many overseas as well. Even worse, what we Western Australians absolutely know is that this is an East Coast Labor city elite-focused federal government, dictating to, as well as being prepared to sacrifice, WA Farmers and communities. They are pandering to people who literally don’t like or don’t approve of the work regional people do, in spite of the over $400 billion generated from regional and rural areas to help fund the very basic services that all Australians rely on. Labor doesn’t have to care about us as farmers, primary producers or people who live or work in the regions. Those of us in ag and mining who kept Australia out of recession during the global financial crisis are those who, as I said, are right now paying for the services and supports Australians need through royalties, taxes and export revenues. We just don’t matter to Labor. Labor doesn’t give a damn and we are totally expendable; that’s what we know.

Australia has the best farmers in the world who feed and clothe us. That excellence is front and centre in the live export trade. The industry introduced world-leading animal welfare reforms in 2019 in both transport and processing of sheep in the Middle East. In the live sheep export sector Australia is literally world and global gold standard. If we don’t support our farmers there will be increases in food prices and losses of intergenerational and hardworking farming families who have quietly, efficiently and effectively sustained our nation. Who do you trust to produce your food? I hope it’s an Australian farmer, because that’s what we do well. It is going to have a devastating impact on those farmers that are affected.

We all need to protect our future food supplies. I’m asking you, if you’re watching, to support our Australian farmers, because right now the Labor government is constantly choosing to support and empower radical, extreme activist fanatics instead of our farmers. If you’re a Western Australian farmer you are directly at the mercy of eastern states Labor politicians, who simply want to put you out of business. None of us feel safe, no matter what we’re farming. This is a shot across the bow for all of us as farmers. I’ve said before that I’ve never been as worried about the future of farmers in my 50 years in this industry as I am right now. We’re seeing a deliberate and calculated Labor government approach to directly and indirectly get rid of more and more farmers, and more and more production animals, giving in to those elite city extremists. Make no mistake: Labor is coming after us, one sector at a time.

After this, that will mean more land is available for Labor’s renewables only policies. The more farmers that are gone, the more land there is for endless wind turbines, solar panels, transmission lines and our water. Labor is shutting down live sheep exports now, but in WA this effectively means that, in the southern part of the state, it’s shutting down live cattle exports as well, because it’s the sheep carriers that deliver WA’s live cattle to markets. Seventy-five per cent of sheep ships out of WA have cattle on board. We know Animals Australia have said they’re coming after live cattle exports next. Labor will say yes to this; they’ve done it before. And we know that if there is a minority government made up of Labor, the teals and the Greens, Labor will say yes to shutting down live cattle exports, simply continuing to destroy without any compunction the livelihoods of small communities, based on fanatical activist petitions. There are endless attacks on us as farmers, whether it’s the biosecurity food tax levy or aggressive and anti-farming provisions in the nature positive bill—it goes on and on.

I actually felt quite sick when I saw the ag minister hold up Labor’s document and there was almost a smirk on his face. That smirk said, ‘We’re putting farmers either at risk or out of business.’ He is not only openly celebrating the end to an industry; that smile was about the impact this will have on small, rural and regional communities, and small family farming businesses mostly in WA. He doubled down on that with that contemptuous comment at his post-budget address, when farmers left in protest—just as well I didn’t talk about it earlier in the speech. What contempt! We heard in this chamber today a terrible comment—that it’s just crocodile tears from any of us objecting. Try being the crocodile tears when you’re losing a third or more of your income overnight.

What utter contempt both he and Labor are showing for our farmers. We’ve even heard the Prime Minister making a joke about the end to live exports. Is it really a joke to directly cause harm to small regional communities? How disgusting to announce that the government is taking away farmers’ livelihoods and then flippantly dismissing our reaction—what an indictment! Unlike Labor, I believe that the majority of Australians actually respect our farmers and value the wonderful, high-quality food that they put on their tables.

Equally, in Australia, livestock is an essential part of sustainable land management in WA. It is especially important in managing land that is not suitable for cropping, which in some areas is around 20 per cent of the land. It’s because of our farmers that the majority of Australians, unless they’ve fallen on very hard personal circumstances, have never been hungry. The food is always on the shelves. Australians know that we farmers are working day and night, in all weathers, to get the job done and to put that beautiful food on the table for them and their children. But, without the help of Australians, we can’t fight a Labor government that’s hell-bent on putting us out of business, that’s compromising our children’s and grandchildren’s futures in farming, and that’s directly and deliberately undermining the sustainability of those small regional and remote local communities, small businesses and contractors—the truckies, stock agents, shearers, schools, vets, retailers, coffee shops, garages, mechanics, fuel suppliers, sporting clubs, and volunteer emergency services organisations in towns from York, Kojonup, Boyup Brook and Beverley right through to those more remote communities.

Each one of those businesses keeps their community going by buying from one another and supporting each other. The dollars circulate around a small community. We haven’t got big communities to draw on. They support local community service and sporting organisations as well. Each one is interdependent and each one helps to make our community sustainable and survive. There is the farmer, the sheep or grain producer who buys locally —hardware, machinery, feed, super, food, groceries, tyres, mechanical services. If you haven’t lived in our world, you don’t understand how interdependent they are. Clearly Labor doesn’t, and it does not care either.

There’s the local livestock transport operator who buys locally. It’s the same with the shearing contractor. In turn, each one of these small businesses buys from and supports each other and the family businesses in those local communities. Every time we lose one of those families it means fewer kids in our little local schools, reductions in teaching staff and maybe closures. So what happens to the few kids who are left? As those families leave the community, there are fewer parents to help out at the schools. The local pub closes, the local shops close, and communities shrink. It is brutal, but that’s how it works. If you take a source of major income out of a small community, that is the result.

For those of us who live and work in regional or remote Australia, we know it firsthand. As my colleague the member for Durack said recently, the consequences of this legislation are not merely political. They are deeply personal and devastating to the livelihoods of hardworking Australians who rely on this industry. Please don’t underestimate the industry. It underpins our farming systems and creates thousands of jobs, from the paddock to small local communities and the broader WA economy. Why on earth would Labor think it’s a great idea to make these small regional communities less self-sustaining, less viable and less cohesive—or simply disappear altogether? It’s death by a thousand cuts. That’s how it works. It’s gradual and it happens.

The ban won’t create demand for chilled or boxed meat. It will simply push the live trade to countries with far lower—if any—animal welfare standards, because this is the product the market needs. As I said, the industry introduced world-leading animal welfare standards in both transport and processing.
I received a letter from Kurt and Kristen, who made it simple for me:

Our enterprise relies on our ability to be able to manage the highs & lows in the markets and the weather.

Australia is a harsh climate and the reason sheep have thrived in this state is because they are resilient and WA farmers are so professional and know how to manage them, no matter what is thrown at them!

We have the best sheep husbandry practices and to be told that we don’t by people who have no interest and no part in the industry is a kick in the guts!

Those are her words. She said:

If the facts were presented and the powers that be wanted to listen, they would realise that we are world leaders in sheep husbandry, production and export, and removing this vital option for selling sheep will only result in the most terrible outcomes for the stock, and regional WA. The first thing being that countries with much worse animal welfare outcomes will come in and sell sheep where we have been, is it case of we don’t care if we are not involved? Instead of setting the standard for sheep production and export, and making the world step up to where we are by leading the way.

She said to me:

The second thing will be that this is a giant nail in the coffin of regional WA. Our small towns survive on the people who are needed for all facets of farming sheep.

Not just the farmers, staff, their children, schools, shops, small businesses, medical facilities, volunteers, sporting groups, shire councils, stock agents, shearers, agronomists, grain merchants, the list goes on. The numbers will continue to decline in the communities the more that gets taken from us, when there are no people needed on farms to work with these sheep.

That came from Kurt and Kristen from Koorda in WA. These are the people that Labor is affecting by this
decision. As I said, don’t underestimate this industry and don’t underestimate these people.

Overseas markets, both historic and new markets, want our livestock. They know that Australian farmers are producing high-quality livestock that meets their needs—and these sheep actually put on weight on on the voyage. Let me tell you, as someone who actually farms livestock, that animals don’t put on weight if they’re not really doing well. They just don’t. For those in this place to say otherwise is just an absolutely false statement. The industry continues to deliver quality sheep and cattle, partly due to historic breeding improvements and the quality of our stock, along with the highest live export animal welfare standards in the world. That should say it all.

But I say to any farmers that are watching that I met a lot of you when I was at Wagin Woolorama, and I was very worried about what this is doing to you personally. I said to you, ‘If you need mental health support because you’re not doing well because of what Labor is doing to you, can you please get the help you need?’ You don’t have to be alone in this space, and I know the trauma that this is bringing you, because some of you were very personally direct with me about this. Please get the help you need, in spite of what Labor is putting you through.