I remember the conversation with my brother, Nick, very well.
He is the owner of a registered live export premises in the NT and the co-owner of a pair of live export ships, so it is fair to say that he has a fair bit of skin in the game when it comes to live export.
I was about to hop on a plane to the USA for a holiday, when I called my brother in relation to the fallout following the airing of ‘A Bloody Business’ in late May 2011. He explained to me that the grapevine murmurings were that there was serious consideration being given to banning the trade.
I churlishly said to him that ‘there is no way a government would cripple an industry’ and the lives of many thousands of people in the north.
How wrong I was.
The rush to placate the vociferous animal rights groups showed a level of appeasement that would have made Neville Chamberlain blush.
The Gillard Government and Minister Ludwig clearly skipped reading the CliffsNotes on effective government and fell under the mesmeric charms of extreme, activist lobby groups.
The matter ceased being about animal welfare almost from the outset when Minister Ludwig made what was clearly a political decision to assuage urban voters that the Federal Government had the matter in hand.
But the recent judgment of Justice Rares has now provided clarity on the Machiavellian machinations of the Minister, and determined that the order banning the trade to Indonesia was ‘capricious and unreasonable’ and made with reckless indifference to the fate of the northern cattle industry and our friends in Indonesia.
And the decision has also revealed, amongst other things, that the consideration shown by Minister Ludwig to the Indo-Australian relationship was exactly four-fifths of five-eighths of next to nothing.
This judgment will certainly give future pause to any politician, who barrels off into the sunset without proper concern for all of the legal ramifications and potential detriment to affected parties.
Policy consideration should always start with a concentration on the wider macroeconomic implications, rather than on focus group polling and management of the media cycle.
This is not to suggest that ‘flash point’ issues should be ignored, but that the concerns of activist groups must be dealt with in a common sense way and on their merits, without fear or favour, rather than following the hyper-inflated rhetoric that is their specialty.
‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is a well-known legal maxim. To state the bleeding obvious, nine years is a long time to wait for justice. Let us all hope that common sense prevails, and that the Commonwealth accepts the considered reasoning of Justice Rares, does not appeal and allows us all to draw a line under this epic debacle.
Trent Thorne, agribusiness lawyer, McCullough Robertson