LIVE sheep exports by sea will be banned from 1 May 2028 after legislation was passed in a late-night Senate session on 1 July.

Legislation has now passed both houses of the Australian Parliament.

While Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt, claimed the law strengthened animal welfare and opened up opportunities for more jobs and value-adding in Western Australia, there was vocal opposition in Parliament from National, Liberal and Independent senators.

Minister Watt heralded the law as a significant moment for animal welfare. It also enabled the rollout of a range of financial assistance under the $107 million phase out transition support package.

“We made a commitment at two elections to phase out the export of live sheep by sea, after years of community concern about the trade,” Minister Watt said.

“Around 70% of West Australians support ending this industry and the Parliament has now acted.

“The Albanese Government’s transition plan provides certainty, time and support.

“This law is a critical foundation for transitioning towards the end of the trade.

“This legislation delivers certainty for the sheep industry to make decisions for the future by enshrining the 1 May 2028 end date.

“Sheep producers, the sheep supply chain and trading partners can now plan and take action with confidence, knowing there are four years until the trade ends.”

Minister Watt said the Albanese Government is committed to supporting the sheep industry to continue to thrive, including by leveraging more onshore meat processing, particularly in Western Australia.”

Minister Watt claimed live sheep exports by sea from Australia have been falling over the last 20 years.

“It’s an industry that’s been in long-term decline with the evolution of global food supply chains, and it now represents less than 1% of Western Australia’s agriculture sector.”

He said at the same time demand for WA lamb and mutton was going through the roof, and moving from live exports of sheep to more onshore processing would deliver a high-value future for Western Australia.

“The fact is Australians and our trading partners buy a lot more processed sheep meat than live exported sheep.

“Our sheepmeat exports are worth $4.5 billion and the domestic industry worth $3.5 billion, while the live trade is worth just $77 million.

“Enhancing demand for Australian sheep products here in Australia and in other international markets is a key component of our transition plan.

“The government will work with a range of delivery partners to stand up programs to assist with the transition and appoint a Transition Advocate, as recommended by the independent panel which consulted widely with interested parties.

“I remain optimistic for the future of Australia’s sheep industry and WA’s sheep industry for that matter.

“I’m confident that the transition package will continue to take the sheep industry and the communities of Western Australia forward.”