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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Export producers of live cattle could be compensated, says PM, regardless of legal recourse

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Prime Minister says cattle farmers may receive compensation whether or not the government appeals a decision that the 2011 ban on exports of live cattle to Indonesia was invalid.

At a press conference this morning, Scott Morrison said that the Coalition is “still considering” the issue of an appeal, but expressed sympathy for those behind a class action against the Commonwealth.

“What is important to note is that these live cattle exporters have been blatantly treated by the Gillard government,” said Morrison.

Government has 28 days to declare if it will appeal against the Federal Court decision which concluded that the rapid ban of former Minister of Agriculture Joe Ludwig was reckless and malicious.

Justice Stephen Rares ordered the Commonwealth to pay substantial damages in the six-year Brett Cattle Company class action.

At a follow-up hearing today, Justice Rares said the two parties would return to court on August 20 to finalize the number of producers and businesses claiming the money and how much they would get.

The class action remains open, and there could potentially be hundreds of producers and businesses requesting payments amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Farmers accused the government of dragging the process and pleaded with the Coalition, which has always criticized the ban on live cattle, not to appeal the court’s decision.

As expected, the court officially ordered the Commonwealth to pay $ 2.93 million to the principal plaintiff, the Brett Cattle Company of Waterloo Station.

Cattle farmers firmly resist call

National Federation of Farmers President Fiona Simson said farmers “acknowledge” Prime Minister’s latest comment but were “deeply disappointed” that the Coalition did not rule out a call and wanted the Commonwealth to recognize that Mr. Ludwig’s actions were illegal.

“Far from settling the matter, the Prime Minister’s comments add further uncertainty and anxiety to what has already been an unnecessarily long process,” Simson said in a statement.

“The failure to fully support the industry indicates contempt for the Brett family and the many families and businesses like them who have endured enough.

“Monetary compensation is an important element, but the question of principle is just as important.

“Justice Rares lashed out at the decision-making process that led to the closure of the industry and the enduring loss and suffering it has inflicted on so many.

“The Brett Cattle Company, the other class action plaintiffs, the NFF, the NTCA and the Australian Farmers’ Fighting Fund are seeking assurances from this government that such reckless decision-making will never happen again. “

Former Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association (NTCA) chief Tracey Hayes, who was the spokesperson for the class action, agreed that the producers remained strongly opposed to an appeal, even if compensation was guaranteed.

Former NT Cattlemen chief on live export ban
Spokeswoman Tracey Hayes said producers remain strongly opposed to an appeal, even though compensation is guaranteed.(News Video)

“So we are now studying what an appeal might look like and how it would affect our decisions.

“It is important that the Prime Minister is the one who calls the shots and makes the decisions about the next steps the Commonwealth would take in this matter.

Justice Rares said compensation should be calculated on the basis that a minimum of 88,000 head of cattle could have been exported to Indonesia during the six-week trade suspension at prices of $ 2.15 per kilo for steers and $ 1.95 per kilo for heifers.

Hayes urged interested beef companies to sign the class action to do so as soon as possible.

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