A push to end live sheep exports has been shelved in federal parliament after Coalition MPs opposed to the trade refused to vote to ban it.
Legislation to phase out live sheep exports within five years and end the trade to the Middle East during the northern summer passed the Senate on Monday, September 10.
But Labor’s push to have the bill debated in the House of Representatives was headed off in the afternoon, with the government prevailing 72-70.
Liberal MPs Sarah Henderson and Sussan Ley both oppose the trade, despite voting against the phase out.
‘‘Labor’s actions today (September 10) were a disingenuous attempt to disrupt parliament masquerading behind the cause of animal welfare,’’ Ms Ley, the Federal Member for Farrer, said in a joint statement with Ms Henderson.
‘‘As members of the ministry, it is no longer open to us to support any private member’s bill or the bill passed by the Senate today.
‘‘Our personal conviction on this issue remains and we will continue to advocate for a change in Coalition policy and for a phase out of this awful trade.
‘‘The private member’s bill we introduced, on May 21, to phase out long-haul live sheep exports is currently being debated in the House of Representatives.’’
The newly-promoted pair are hopeful a soon-to-be released review into the agriculture department will keep the issue in the spotlight.
Liberal backbencher Jason Wood, who has previously spoken in favour of phasing out the trade, also voted against debating the bill.
Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon accused Ms Ley and Ms Henderson of abandoning their convictions, in favour of taking up the ‘‘most junior positions’’ in the ministry.
Ms Ley was behind a private member’s bill mirrored by the Senate legislation.
‘‘Today (September 10) Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson took their 30 pieces of silver and voted against their own proposition to phase out the live sheep export trade,’’ Mr Fitzgibbon said.
‘‘It’s obvious their passionate speeches in support of their own bill were full of hollow and insincere words.’’
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said Australia had a responsibility to stay in the trade, attacking Labor for ‘‘crab-walking’’ towards banning cattle exports.
The Greens and independents Derryn Hinch and Tim Storer were behind the Senate bill.