Legislation to end live sheep exports introduced

The Albanese Government has introduced legislation to Parliament to formalise the end date for the export of live sheep by sea from Australia.

The legislation is the next step in the orderly and considered process to deliver on this election commitment to the Australian public and paves the way for more jobs and value adding through onshore processing.

The introduction of legislation comes five years after the government first made this election promise in 2019 and then again in 2022, before undertaking months of extensive consultation including receiving thousands of submissions, commissioning and receiving a report by an independent panel, and then announcing a $107 million transition support package.'

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt said the Government had promised that the phase out would not occur this term of Parliament, and by setting an end date of 1 May, 2028, this legislation fulfils that commitment.

“The Australian sheep industry now has the time, support and certainty it needs to plan effectively for the future,” Minister Watt said.

“We have put $107 million on the table to ensure those affected by the phase out are well-positioned and ready when the trade ends in May 2028.

“This is a policy that invests in the future of the Australian sheep industry.

“Funding from the Government will assist the supply chain to adapt to the phase out with more onshore processing and more value adding, together with action to enhance demand for sheep products domestically and overseas.

“While live sheep export numbers have plummeted in the last 20 years, now contributing just 0.1% of all national agricultural exports, sheep meat exports are going through the roof.

“Australia is now the largest exporter of sheep meat to the world, with nearly $4.5 billion in chilled and frozen sheep meat exported in 2022-23 alone. 

“At the same time demand for sheepmeat at home continues to grow.

“We are committed to seeing these markets grow and offer more opportunities to Australian producers and processors.”

Minister Watt said the Bill locks in the end date and contains provision to get the transition funding rolling, with assistance to those who need it.

“We have taken our time to listen to all views and get this right,” he said.

“Nevertheless, with a timeframe in place and money on the table, farmers and supply-chain participants can now plan with confidence for the future.” 

Once the legislation is passed, more information on the transition support programs will be available in the second half of the year to assist people to start preparing.

While industry and communities plan for the end of trade, there is regulatory stability. 

Trade may continue until 1 May 2028 and Australia’s high animal welfare requirements for live sheep exports remain in place.

For more information on the transition package head to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website.