Push to ban live exports compared to same-sex marriage

By Country News

A former federal minister has compared her push to ban live sheep exports to attempts to secure same-sex marriage through parliament.

Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley last Monday introduced legislation to ban the sheep trade to the Middle East over five years, with a three-month freeze in the meantime during the European summer months (July-September).

‘‘I, in some ways, compare this to the gay marriage debate, where several private member’s bills were tabled over the years and they didn’t provide the immediate response, but they were all part of building the case,’’ the Liberal MP said last week.

‘‘This has been really a trade marked by disaster-following-debacle — and that’s gone on for 33 years.’’

Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon will be recommending to his shadow cabinet that the Opposition supports the bill.

‘‘I have no doubt the bill reflects the view of the broader Labor Party,’’ he said.

He is hopeful, if Labor can restore its numbers to 69 in the lower house following a series of by-elections, and with the support of Liberal MP Sarah Henderson who has broken ranks to second the push, the bill will get 71 votes.

Then, only five more would be needed to secure an absolute majority and three of those could be found on the crossbench, Mr Fitzgibbon said.

The Australian Greens also believe there could be the numbers to pass the legislation.

The government has rejected Ms Ley’s bill, but introduced its own last week to slap harsh new penalties on exporters doing the wrong thing, including jail sentences of up to 10 years.

It followed a review into the live sheep trade prompted by footage of sheep dying in their own filth in horrific conditions during Middle East-bound voyages.

Ms Henderson said the key issue was the extreme temperature on board the ships headed to the Middle East.

‘‘It’s like putting a dog in a car on a hot summer’s day — that will lead inevitably to death,’’ she said.

She defended the bill as responsible, saying unlike Labor’s previous trade bans this would be phased in over time.

Liberal MP Jason Wood also wants to see the trade banned.