Live sheep wethers waiting to be loaded onto export ship.
Live sheep wethers waiting to be loaded onto export ship. MEAD LEON

Sussan Ley to introduce bill to end live sheep exports

UPDATE: REGIONAL Liberal MP Sussan Ley will introduce a private members' bill to end live sheep exports.

Ms Ley plans to bring the bill forward next month, in the sitting week after the federal budget is handed down.

"Having been a farmer for 17 years, having represented rural Australia and sheep producers, I've got to say if I'm calling time on this industry, I think time is well and truly passed,” she told Sky News yesterday.

It comes as the live export industry took the extraordinary step of backing the creation of an inspector-general of animal welfare for exported animals, marking a major policy shift for the industry.

Ms Ley, who represents the country NSW electorate of Farrer, was the first Federal Government minister to break ranks and call for the controversial trade to be phased out, following the most recent live exports scandal in which 2400 sheep died due to heat stress on a voyage to the Middle East.

Ms Ley said the bill would be aimed at live sheep exports to the Middle East only, which is effectively all of Australia's live sheep export trade.

"I recognise this needs to be done in consultation with farmers and industry, because the farmers in my mind will always come first,” she said.

"It's not about removing an avenue of their livelihood, because there are transitions that can be made in consultation with the rural sector.”

Victorian Liberal MP Jason Wood has also called for an end to live exports.

The Greens have said they will back Ms Ley's bill.

"The Greens have been working to end live exports for years and we welcome members from the major parties joining us in standing up for animal welfare,” Greens MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt said.

However, Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack says the live export trade still has a future in Australia.

"I don't believe we should ban the whole trade holus bolus,” Mr McCormack told the National Press Club in Canberra today.

"I do believe in live animal exports... and I do see a future for it.

"It brings export dollars into this country, it creates jobs, it creates opportunities.”

Mr McCormack said if Australia withdrew from the trade, the gaps would be filled by other countries with lesser animal welfare standards.