Cabinet split as Crean lashes ‘hasty’ cattle ban | The Australian

Interesting article. We can attest that the ban last year has frightened potential foreign buyers for breeders and slaughter stock, both cattle and sheep; they are nervous about developing new markets and then having their supply chain cut off due to somebody else’s error. In Georgia we have the odd situation where breeders and abattoirs would prefer to import stock from the EU, at higher prices than Australian stock, because there is no need for supply-chain audits, and they have flexibility to breed, fatten or on-sell to others as circumstances dictate without great mountains of red tape.

Cabinet split as Crean lashes 'hasty' cattle ban | The Australian

CABINET Minister Simon Crean was “highly critical” of the Gillard government’s decision to suspend the live-export trade to Indonesia over the alleged mistreatment of cattle in abattoirs, according to senior non-government figures with whom he consulted.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the ban implemented by Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, they said Mr Crean, as Minister for Regional Australia, was scathing in his assessment of the controversial move.

“Simon Crean said in substance that it was a hasty decision that was not thought out and did not take proper advice or consultation into account,” a Victorian businessman said yesterday.

“He told me that the decision to suspend the live-export industry was taken without regard for the serious financial consequences. I am very clear on it.

“He is a straight-shooter and he was being honest with me. The decision to suspend live export was not one that Simon Crean or anyone else could have taken unless they were in a panic and were not following sensible advice.”

Mr Crean’s spokeswoman said the minister did not comment on private conversations and would not confirm or deny the claims.

Lawyers from leading Queensland firm McCullough Robertson are pursuing an action for significant damages for cattle industry businesses on the grounds that they have been severely affected because of “defective administration” by Senator Ludwig and the Department of Agriculture.

One of the firm’s Brisbane lawyers, Trent Thorne, examined numerous internal documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation before determining that the Gillard government was exposed to payouts under a commonwealth compensation scheme for “defective administration”.

Mr Thorne, a former jackaroo in the Northern Territory, has another incentive – his older brother Nick is the owner-operator of Cedar Park, the largest export cattle yards in the Northern Territory, which has been hit hard, along with hundreds of businesses in the industry.

“The defective administration was through a total lack of understanding of how the northern livestock and export industry works,” said Nick Thorne at his property, about 100km south of Darwin.

“Far too many people made decisions on an industry they knew nothing about, relying on hearsay from others, not on facts.”

Government figures compiled last year say the ban, which came into force on June 6 last year, affected more than half the cattle producers in northern Australia, at a cost of 326 jobs, and left at least 274,000 animals stranded. Live-cattle exports to Indonesia are worth $326 million a year.

Mr Thorne said it had taken a year for cattle industry operators who had borne the brunt of the losses from the suspension to work out “where do we go from here and what action can we take or needs to be taken to clear the industry’s name”.

The senior non-government figures who heard Mr Crean expressing serious concerns over the decision have been in contact with the law firm.

“Given the material we have reviewed to date and all the FOI searches that we have conducted, I think there is little doubt in my mind that the decision-making process was flawed from the outset,” Trent Thorne said. “The department didn’t take into account all the information that they had to hand. They panicked, that’s the long and short of it.”

The continuing fallout from the suspension is having a serious impact on businesses and families across northern rural Australia. Industry figures told The Weekend Australian it would be years before the industry recovered, if ever, but in the meantime many businesses would fail.

Steve Ellison, a long-time cattleman who advises Indonesia’s largest feed-lot company, said: “There will be a growing number of cattle-related properties going to the wall in the Territory and the Kimberley because the industry is not viable with present demand from Indonesia. The Indonesians cut permits because they viewed the Australian government’s action as rude and arrogant and poorly managed. If Kevin Rudd had not used his influence, the relationships would be even worse.

“But I don’t think the mob in Canberra can repair the situation, they’ve done their dash.

“My concern is that the banks are going to take a hit soon and when they start to foreclose on the cattle properties there will be a domino effect.”

Senator Ludwig, who declined an interview request, said he had chosen the action “that best served the trade’s long-term interests”.

“Producers and the community care about the welfare of the animals involved in this trade,” he said.

“The checks and balances we now have in place are the reason the trade still continues.”

Asked about Mr Crean’s contrary views, Senator Ludwig’s office said he had “no further comment”.

via Cabinet split as Crean lashes ‘hasty’ cattle ban | The Australian.

via Cabinet split as Crean lashes ‘hasty’ cattle ban | The Australian.

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