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NFF urging Federal Government to finally settle live cattle case

Beef Central, 05/12/2023
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says it has welcomed a counter offer made to the Commonwealth Government to hopefully close the long-running class action of those left devastated by the unlawful closure of the live cattle export trade in 2011.

The applicant in the class action has made an open offer in good faith to the Commonwealth of $510 million plus costs and interest to settle the Brett Cattle Company Pty Ltd v Minister for Agriculture [2020] FCA 732 class action that would be a fair and equitable end to what the Federal Court has found was malfeasance by the Gillard Government to destroy the live cattle export trade in Australia.

The group of 215 parties to the class action include cattle producers, exporters and independent service providers, such as veterinarians and musterers, who were completely devastated by the Commonwealth Government decision to end the live cattle trade virtually overnight and are still waiting on compensation.

NFF CEO Tony Mahar said it is clear Minister Murray Watt needs to accept this reasonable offer and allows families to move on from a traumatic event that has been running for over ten years.

“This latest settlement offer is an attempt to bring to an end a very painful chapter in the history of Australian agriculture that has done severe and unnecessary damage to producers, their families and the broader supply chain.

“The Government’s political decision to end live export, showed scant regard for its own departmental advice, and caused widespread financial damage, family break ups, and even suicide among those impacted.

“The rushed decision following a Four Corners story combined with a premeditated campaign by animal rights activists was found to have been unlawful, with the Federal Court taking the extraordinary step of labelling the action ‘capricious, irrational and unreasonable’.”

The latest by the applicant proposes compensation of $510 million plus interest plus cost which would likely see a settlement to those effected of between $800 million and $900 million.

The Commonwealth Government has until 19 January 2024 to accept the offer or face a potentially much more significant payout allowing the Federal Court to rule on the quantum of damages.

Last year the Commonwealth Government offered to settle the case for $215 million interest and costs included, which was clearly insubstantial given the findings of the court in terms of breach by the Commonwealth.

“Agriculture Minister Murray Watt needs to accept this offer and bring this matter to an end, giving farmers and their families effected the closure that they deserve following the findings of the Federal Court,” Mr Mahar said.

With the Commonwealth Government currently considering the banning of the live sheep trade, this case should be a timely reminder to those in power that capricious decision making around Australian agriculture can have catastrophic impacts for the lives of Australian farmers.

“This case and the consequences for the Commonwealth should be a lesson on how not to operate and we hope they’ve learned the lessons from the past in their attempts to ban the live sheep export trade in Australia. In the last 48 hours the Labor Premier of Western Australia has called on the Albanese Government to reverse its decision and the Commonwealth needs to listen,” Mr Mahar said.

Source: NFF

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