Live Export

McLachlan, Robb and McGauchie call on Morrison not to appeal livex ruling

Beef Central, 20/07/2020

THREE Liberal Party heavyweights and foundation members of the Australian Farmers Fighting Fund have publicly urged the Morrison Government to accept the Federal Court’s decision last month declaring the Gillard government’s ban on live exports illegal.

Ian McLachlan

“The government should accept the court’s decision, so the Brett family, our industry and the wider farming community in Australia can finally move on,” Ian McLachlan, Andrew Robb and Donald McGauchie state in a letter published today in The Australian.

Mr McLachlan is a former Federal Defence Minister and NFF president, Mr Robb is a former Federal Trade Minister and Cattle Council of Australia CEO and Mr McGauchie is a former NFF president and the current chair of Australian Agricultural Co and Nufarm.

They warn in today’s letter that any attempt to overturn the export ban ruling would do serious harm to farmers.

“More than anything this judgment states publicly that it was not within the government’s power to damage our community in that way, under those circumstances,” the authors state.

“Just as most Australians were horrified by the inhumane treatment of our animals in May 2011, so too would most Australians understand the court’s decision in 2020.”

Attorney General Christian Porter has indicated the Federal Government will decide whether to appeal the decision before July 27.

The Federal Government has also indicated that damages awarded by Justice Rares will be paid even if the Attorney-General successfully appeals the court’s decision.

That position has been described by the three authors as “an extraordinary position to take”, arguing that it acknowledges “the minister committed a wrong that requires compensation, while simultaneously arguing the minister’s decision was entirely valid”.

Donald McGauchie

Mr McLachlan, Mr Robb and Mr McGauchie write that if the court’s decision does not stand, exposure to imperious government intervention in export markets will continue, without any protection for those who do the right thing.

“It would leave our ability to operate in doubt. While the compensation is important, it doesn’t come close to what Justice Rares provided in his public statement that under these very specific and limited circumstances, the minister’s power does not reach that far.

“It can be difficult for those in power to admit when they are wrong. This is particularly true when those with power are hidden from the public. We don’t know what advice the Attorney-General is getting. But we assume it comes from similar sources as those who supported the original blanket ban.”

The letter pointed out that the Senate recently passed a motion – supported by Coalition MPs, including Trade Minister Simon Birmingham and three of his cabinet colleagues – urging the government not to appeal the court’s decision.

“We have been told by many growers that they would see any further challenge to the Federal Court decision as an act of betrayal by the Coalition government.

“The government should accept the court’s decision, so the Brett family, our industry and the wider farming community in Australia can finally move on.”

The letter can be read in full on The Australian’s website at this link (subscription required).


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  1. Terry Vail, 24/07/2020

    I commend the decision by government not to appeal the courts decision, to face facts and move on, but it’s now their position to fund the $600M from the taxpayer to foot the bill, with no personal penalty for the wrong-doers. You may well say that Ludwig lost his position, but so has Gillard, although both remain on publicly funded retirement, and haven’t lost a wink of sleep from the path of devastation they ploughed.

  2. John Gunthorpe, 21/07/2020

    Equally we should be concerned that this ruling restricts the powers of Ministers to perform their duties under all portfolios. If it is to be a precedent for future Ministerial responsibility, then it requires the Federal Government to test its validity in the higher courts.

    Previously, we have suggested the compensation could be paid to all effected businesses from this deplorable action by then Minister Ludwig, and the legal issue tested in the courts by the government. Not just farmers were financially impacted. Many businesses throughout the live export supply chain lost income when the trade was stopped. They also need compensation. All must be compensated not just that ordered by the single judge.

    There is need for a compensation scheme to be established for those in primary production when actions are taken for the “good” of the community but worn by individual producers. This should be a biosecurity fund managed by the federal government and contributed to by members of those industries potentially impacted by way of a levy and matched dollar for dollar by the federal government. Payments from the fund must be made within a reasonable time of the inflicted damage.

    The most notable time in our recent past when such a fund should have been called upon was after the Queensland government mandated 258 quarantine notices be delivered to cattle producers to control BJD. Now for AgForce and Cattle Council of Australia this was an own goal. Minister McVeigh, the then Minister of Agriculture in the LNP Queensland Government, said he was responding to requests by AgForce and CCA as industry advisers when asked why he had introduced the control measures.

    As a result, those 258 individual producers lost in excess of $100 million and were stigmatised to such an extent that they still today suffer from the stress inflicted on them by these terrible days. The LNP Deputy Premier at the time said they would be fully compensated so the benefits to the industry of eradicating BJD would not be won at the cost of the individual. Of course it was never delivered.

    If we had a national biosecurity fund at the time, compensation could have been paid so producers did not lose their farms. This fund should be available to all rural industries who contribute levies matched by government. Whether they are banana growers dealing with Panama TR4 or prawn harvesters dealing with white spot, all should have access when actions for the good of the industry are inflicted on a few.

    This would remove the need to seek legal redress in situations such as we are dealing with currently. An expert panel assembled whenever a situation such as the live trade ban arises could determine what compensation is required and to whom it should be paid. Live exporters, cattle producers and those seeking compensation would need to be contributors to the fund in order to lodge a claim.

    There are better ways to deal with these extraordinary events.

    Australian Cattle Industry Council

  3. Bruce Collins, 21/07/2020

    I agree that the Federal Government should not appeal. The harm done to the industry was not just to those involved in live export, but the resulting oversupply in northern Australia caused unsuitable stock to flood the store cattle markets of southern Qld and Australia generally to the extent that prices tanked just as a dry summer took over. Accept the decision and get on with it.

  4. Michael Bull, 20/07/2020

    TOO MANY cLAIMANTS TRYING TO GET ON THE GRAVY TRAIn, Iwas a suspension and not a Ban for Starters

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