What will happen to the $136 million live sheep industry now Labor has won?

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The $136 million live sheep export industry is pleading for its life after Labor’s election victory.

The ALP has pledged to phase out the trade because of animal welfare concerns.

But Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton thinks he can change the new federal government’s mind.

“Absolutely … I think we can,” he said.

“Particularly since 2019, when Labor took the same policy to the election, the animal welfare performance of the industry has been outstanding and that’s across the board.

A group of protesters on the shoreline at Fremantle.A group of protesters on the shoreline at Fremantle.
Protesters have frequently rallied against the live export trade at Fremantle Port.(ABC News: James Carmody)

“Labor were very clear [during the 2022 election campaign] they had a commitment to engage with industry and so we’ll be holding them to that.”

West Australian farmer Peter Boyle’s entire sheep business is geared for the live export industry and he said he stood to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if it closed.

“We’re very apprehensive,” the York farmer said.

“Normally, we would be purchasing sheep [now] to fatten up for the start of the September opening [of the trade].

Peter Boyle standing in font of sheep on his farm in YorkPeter Boyle standing in font of sheep on his farm in York
WA sheep producer Peter Boyle wants clarity on when the live trade will end.(ABC News: Bridget Fitzgerald)

There was confusion about Labor’s policy in the lead-up to the election and Mr Boyle said it was time Labor gave the now solely West Australian industry certainty.

“We’d definitely like an answer of what they [Labor] are planning to do,” he said.

“What’s a phase out, how much time [before it happens]?

“We’d like to know who the [agriculture] minister is going to be … and if there was any slight chance of [the trade] continuing, we would definitely like them to come over here to WA, along with Mark Harvey-Sutton, to support us.

The live export ship Al Kuwait docked in Fremantle in the daytime with port cranes behind it.The live export ship Al Kuwait docked in Fremantle in the daytime with port cranes behind it.
Labor has pledged to phase out the export of live sheep on ships like this one, seen docked at Fremantle Port.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

Mr Harvey-Sutton said he feared banning the live sheep trade could eventually see live cattle exports banned too.

“It’s been made very clear to us that Labor do not have live cattle in their sights but to my mind, you can’t have that precedent yet have complete confidence at the same time,” he said.

The new federal ministry is due to be sworn in next Wednesday.