Premier Mark McGowan has reached out to the Federal Agriculture Minister to discuss WA’s live sheep export industry after being pressed by Nationals leader David Littleproud to do more.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt told The West Australian he had a “very productive conversation” with Mr McGowan in person earlier this month, but that Labor’s election commitment to phase out live sheep exports still remained.
It comes just months after the Premier refused to throw his support behind his own party’s plan to shut down Australia’s live sheep trade industry.
“I have had very productive conversations with Premier McGowan and value his ongoing consultation on a range of WA matters,” Senator Watt said.
“While in WA and elsewhere, I have made clear that I intend to implement our election commitment to phase out live sheep exports, but we will do that in an orderly way, in consultation with industry and other stakeholders.
“We will consult on how we implement the commitment and over what time frame because we want to seize opportunities to create more export dollars and regional jobs, especially through more onshore meat processing.”
The national trade is worth $136 million and employs about 3500 people across the supply chain, with 80 per cent of them being based in WA.
Last week it was revealed the live export of sheep to the Middle East during summer is set to continue for now with some changes recommended by the Federal Agriculture Department, following a review.
Minimum feeding standards and keeping a prohibition of live exports during the hottest periods have been recommended to mitigate the risk of heat stress and improve animal welfare during the trip.
A WA Government spokesperson said the Premier had been “consistent and clear” that the current measures, including the northern summer live export ban, were sufficient.
“The Premier has repeatedly said these measures — which also include additional vet checks and monitoring — have worked well and are effective and appropriate at this time,” the spokesperson said.
“The Prime Minister has announced that there will be no changes during this term of government.
“The Premier has spoken to the Federal Agriculture Minister on several occasions about the issue and discussed the topic with David Littleproud at the National Jobs and Skills Summit.”
Last month, Mr Littleproud wrote a letter to Mr McGowan, requesting a meeting in Perth to try and save WA’s live sheep export industry.
The Premier did not have time in his schedule but approached the Nationals leaders at the Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra earlier this month after being contacted by Mr Littleproud a number of times.
Mr Littleproud said the Premier promised to take the matter to Senator Watt, and now insisted he go to Anthony Albanese after failing to get a positive result.
“If the Premier was serious, he would take Western Australia’s case to the Prime Minister because it’s obvious Murray Watt is cut from the same cloth as (Agriculture Minister) Alannah MacTiernan when it comes to live exports,” he said.
“Murray Watt has said his decision is based on science, so he should put the science up to say why this industry must close otherwise, they need to reverse this decision.”