Labor is refusing to put a timeline on its plan to end live sheep exports as a cross-party push to stop the controversial trade gains momentum.
Independent senator Derryn Hinch is working alongside the Greens to introduce legislation to parliament later in the week which will phase out the trade.
“I have been pushing this for 37 years, it’s never been closer than it is right now,” Senator Hinch told Sky News on Monday.
More than 97,000 people have signed Senator Hinch’s petition to ban live exports.
While the coalition government awaits the outcome of an independent report into the trade, former Liberal cabinet minister Sussan Ley plans to introduce a private bill to end live exports.
Ms Ley has the support of her partyroom colleague Jason Wood, while WA Liberal Ian Goodenough has also raised concerns over the industry.
Labor has pledged to phase out the trade if it wins government, but will also consider Ms Ley’s private bill.
The opposition’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said Labor wanted to work with sheep farmers to make the transition out of the trade, but wouldn’t say how long that would take.
“The last thing farmers and the industry more broadly want is a stop-dead date,” Mr Fitzgibbon told Sky News on Monday.
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan wants quick decisions about ships travelling to the Middle East in the upcoming northern hemisphere summer.
“Let’s deal with that immediate issue. We’ve got to make some decisions this week if we are going to be able to manage this through the next summer,” Ms MacTiernan told reporters on Monday.
A veterinarian-led review into the northern summer trade is under way, with the final report due next week.
In a submission to the review, the Australian Veterinarian Association recommended voyages carrying live sheep to the Middle East during May to October be stopped.
Unions are also ramping up opposition to industry practices after further revelations of cruelty to animals and dire conditions for workers on live export ships.
New footage emerged over the weekend of crew onboard the Emanuel Exports-chartered Awassi Express clearing decomposing sheep carcasses.
Maritime union boss Paddy Crumlin said the barbaric practices showed the industry was failing community expectations.
“Sadly, the utterly disgraceful treatment of animals onboard live export vessels is often mirrored by the equally dismal treatment of seafarers, and this new footage is a terrifying reminder of what life can be like at sea when workers have no rights,” Mr Crumlin said.
“It’s a living hell.”
The Australian Meat Industry Employees Union wants to see a shift to onshore processing.
Conditions on the Awassi sparked widespread outrage last month when animal cruelty was exposed on a 2016 voyage to the Middle East on which 2400 sheep died.
The government is expected to announce tough new measures for dodgy exporters, including 10 years’ jail and multi-million dollar fines.
Australian Associated Press