National Farmers' Federation

NFF condemns Government’s shock timeline for live sheep phase-out

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says farmers have been left shocked after Agriculture Minister Murray Watt announced a radical 4-year timeline to phase out live sheep exports.

The group has slammed the move, which it says ignores industry advice that such a rapid timeline would spell catastrophe for farming communities, for animal welfare, and for Australia’s global trading partnerships.

“Murray Watt has decided to book us on the express train to disaster, but this isn’t the final chapter in this story. We’ll keep fighting,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar committed.

“$20 million a year is pitiful. It’s cents in the dollar compared to what farmers have invested in their businesses, and it doesn’t touch the sides of an industry that will add billions to our economy in the coming years.

“It’s a devastating slap in the face when you consider they squandered $6 million just to produce this dodgy plan!”

The NFF accused the Government of treating victims of the policy with utter contempt by failing to properly consult, refusing to share the report, and announcing the paltry package just days before the budget unveiling. The false rhetoric from the Government about wanting to work collaboratively with industry is disgusting and disingenuous.

“Fresh from handshaking and smiles in Rockhampton, the Minister has flown straight to WA and dropped a bombshell on our farmers. From the very start, this Government’s conduct and mistreatment of farmers on this issue has been an absolute disgrace.

“It also shows a stunning disregard for the situation unfolding on the ground in WA – where emergency task forces are scrambling and hotlines are lighting up to help producers through a crippling tough patch,” he said.

The NFF reiterated that the stakes of this policy extend well beyond just the economic and social impacts in Australia.

“This is not just a betrayal of Australian farmers. It runs directly counter to our national interests. We’re turning our back on crucial Middle Eastern partners who have plead for this trade to continue.

“It also shows complete ignorance to the real-world implications of a ban, which will inevitably lead to poorer animal welfare outcomes.

“This doesn’t end the global demand for live sheep. Today’s announcement just sentences foreign sheep to the practices we banned a decade ago,” Mr Mahar added.

The NFF warned that the announcement legitimises extreme animal activism at the expense of farmers and their families, demonstrating that no agricultural industry is truly safe from ideology-driven policies if it means scoring political points.

“This is what happens when you pander to fringe activists and sideline the grown-ups. They’ve adopted this misguided crusade and decided to trade the livelihoods of regular working people in WA for inner city votes on the East Coast. It’s a wretched political act.

“Make no mistake, this battle is far from over. We will not rest until this misguided policy is overturned, and we urge everyone, especially in the west, to keep fighting tooth and nail.

“I’d say to farmers – stand tall and don’t lose hope. We’re proud of the vital role we play in feeding and clothing people all around the world. We will not allow this Government’s sucking up to activists rob us of that pride.”