Member for Indi Cathy McGowan has not revealed whether she supports a bill to ban long-haul live sheep exports, nor has she taken her Farrer counterpart Sussan Ley up on an offer to meet and discuss the issue, “any time”.
Ms McGowan was not available for comment on Monday and her staff did not answer questions about how she would vote on Ms Ley’s private member’s bill, or whether she supported the ban to live long-haul sheep and lamb exports.
Ms McGowan did, however, release an ambiguous statement where she praised Ms Ley for standing up for regional Australia but said “it is now up to the government to determine the next step for this bill”.
Ms Ley said she had offered to chat to Ms McGowan about the issue, any time, but did not condemn Ms McGowan’s lack of public stance, saying it was “entirely a matter for Cathy”.
It followed Ms Ley’s introduction of a private member’s bill, which if successful would ban all sheep exports to the Middle East during July, August and September from 2019 and see long-haul sheep exports phased out in five years.
Ms Ley, a former sheep farmer herself, said the litany of animal cruelty in the live sheep trade made a mockery of the industry’s “no fear, no pain” mantra, tarnishing the reputation of the country and agricultural workers.
She said farmers had been deceived and the export industry had “an operating model built on animal suffering”.
“I know all the arguments that are used to support the live sheep trade because I ran them myself for 15 years,” she said.
“Recently I found cause to look at the industry with fresh eyes. I have been shocked, angered, bewildered and disappointed.
“Sanctioning further voyages on these ships of shame, particularly into a Middle Eastern summer, damages our brand.”
Ms Ley compared the issue to same-sex marriage in that while many private member’s bills were unsuccessful, they all added momentum to the issue.
Despite this Ms Ley said she was confident the idea would gain significant support from her party.
“We’re not just walking away from this today after the introduction of the bill, we’re working really, really hard,” she said.
Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon confirmed the party would support the bill, stating it would get 71 votes if Labor won seats to restore its numbers to 69 in the upcoming by-election.
However, Ms Ley said she was not interested in party games or counting numbers, saying she would be campaigning for Liberals to win all seats they run a candidate in, at the by-elections.
Ms Ley distanced the bill from Labor’s 2011 ban of live cattle export to Indonesia.
The bill was seconded by Corangamite member Sarah Henderson, supported by La Trobe member Jason Wood, but adjourned to a later sitting.