Former Agricultural Minister condemns ‘insulting’ settlement offer in live export ban dispute

Maranoa MP David Littleproud has labelled the federal government's latest settlement offer in the live export ban class action as 'insulting'. Pictures Graeme Brough/supplied

By Jeremy Cook

Maranoa MP David Littleproud has criticised the federal government’s most recent settlement offer in the live export ban class action dispute, calling for a resolution before the case returns to court.

The dispute comes more than a decade after a controversial ban of live exports to Indonesia was placed on the cattle trade in 2011. The ban came in response to footage which revealed violations of animal welfare standards in Indonesian abattoirs.

Assistant secretary for the Office of Legal Services Coordination in the Attorney-General’s Department Michael Johnson told a Senate Estimates hearing in late-May the government had made a settlement offer of $215 million to members of the class action affected by the ban.

The offer was rejected by lawyers involved in the class action with the case set to return to court in September 2023, three years after the federal court ruled the 2011 ban was unlawful.

Mr Littleproud, who served as Agricultural Minister on two separate occasions from 2017 to 2022, condemned the settlement offer and called on the government to settle the dispute before it returns to court.

“Frankly, I think this latest offer is insulting to all of those producers whose livelihoods were rocked by the 2011 live cattle export bans,” he said.

“This government needs to right this wrong and find a suitable outcome before this case returns to the courtroom.

“Returning to the courts only stands to cost the taxpayers even more.”

Several peak bodies representing the live export industry including the National Farmers Federation and Cattle Australia have argued the $215 million settlement offer is inadequate.

AgForce chief executive Michael Guerin said cattle producers, for whom Indonesia was their primary market for live exports, had taken years to recover.

“The $215 million is manifestly inadequate”, Mr Guerin said.

“Businesses, communities and families have suffered extraordinarily through no recourse in a reasonable amount of time,” he said.

Mr Guerin said the time taken for the class action to go to court, 12 years after the initial ban, was “purely political”.

“It shouldn’t have taken this long.”