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Farmers stage walkout over sheep ban

Written by on May 15, 2024

Disgruntled sheep farmers outraged with the Albanese government’s decision to phase out live sheep exports have staged a walkout during the Agriculture Minister’s post-budget speech.

In what the National Farmers Federation described as an “unprecedented move”, a group of people walked out during Murray Watt’s speech to CropLife on Wednesday morning, as he spoke about the government’s plans to legislate for the end of the live sheep export trade,

As he spoke about the measure on Wednesday morning, the NFF and representatives from peak stakeholders left the room.

In a transcript of the encounter, there was “laughter and interjection” prompting Senator Watt to say “Just as well I didn’t talk about it early in the speech!”

He added: “thanks for your opinion Xavier”, referring to NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin.

Nationals Leader David Littleproud said not only should Labor be embarrassed by the walkout, he was dismayed Senator Watt had joked about the topic rather than listened to farmer’s concerns.

“Australia’s farmers are in despair and desperate for help but they are getting treated with contempt by an out-of-touch Labor government and an agriculture minister who couldn’t give a rats about the industry,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The walkout this morning by our nation’s farmers – those who clothe and feed us – was an act of frustration and a reaction to a government who won’t listen and doesn’t understand how agriculture works.”

The Albanese government has announced a four-year plan to end live sheet exports by May 1, 2028.

NFF president David Jochinke, who led the walkout, said farmers were outraged by the “radical” timeline the government had set with no acknowledgment of the thousands of livelihoods it would destroy.

The government announced a $107m package to help farmers transition out of the live export trade.

“We turned our back to the minister, just like he turned his back on farmers,” NFF president David Jochinke said.

“The walkout represents what this government did to agriculture when it pursued this ideological agenda, disregarding the real-world implications this ban will have on farmers, communities, our trading relationships and animal welfare outcomes.”

As Senator Watt continued his speech following the walkout, he explained the decision had been the result of wide consultation.

“But I am very confident that our government is making the right call now to set up the sheep industry in Western Australia for the future,” he said.