WA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis ‘not invited’ to talks with live export phase-out panel
WA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis has expressed “disappointment” with her Federal counterpart after she was not invited to meetings in regional WA this week to discuss the Albanese Government’s planned live sheep export ban.
Ms Jarvis told reporters in Perth on Wednesday she did not find out about the meetings between industry representatives and the panel leading consultation on the phase-out until “late Sunday afternoon”.
The four-person panel held its first consultation session just hours later on Monday morning, in Moora.
“My office have already communicated with (Federal Agriculture) Minister (Murray) Watt’s office that we would have liked more notice, and we would have liked to have been a bit more involved,” Ms Jarvis said.
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“I only found out about the sessions… late Sunday afternoon; obviously my calendar was already full, so I haven’t been to any of the sessions.”
Nor will Senator Watt attend, with a spokesman for the Minister telling Countryman it was the panel’s job to conduct consultation and report back.
Following enquiries from Countryman, a spokeswoman for Ms Jarvis confirmed she was “not invited” to the meetings because the panel was focused on engaging with sheep producers.
However, on Thursday, Ms Jarvis said she had spoken with Minister Watt on Wednesday night.
“I spoke to Minister Watt last night and conveyed my concerns about the regional meetings,” she said.
“Minister Watt advised me that the panel began inviting regional grower groups and industry representatives to the meetings two weeks ago, with others invited more recently.
“He also advised that the panel did not originally intend these meetings to be large ‘town hall’ style events. “
Ms Jarvis said she noted the panel chair had “acknowledged issues” in how the meetings were arranged.
“(They have) committed to further engagement with farmers, which I welcome,” she said.
“My office was informed of the panel’s intention to hold a regional roadshow in WA but not any specific details.
“This information was not passed onto me and I was not formally invited to the meetings – as they were aimed at industry groups.
“At no point has the WA Government been a part of these proceedings.
“I thank WA producers for taking the time to engage with the panel, and I will continue to stand up for our industry.”
The Albanese Government committed to ending the live sheep trade — which is almost exclusively WA-based — after taking the contentious issue to last year’s May election.
The panel — chaired by former Murray Darling Basin Authority CEO and senior public servant Phillip Glyde — was appointed in early March to consult with farmers and industry on how and when to phase out the $92 million trade.
But this week’s meetings have infuriated farmers and industry leaders, many of whom were not notified and only found out after details were leaked on social media at the weekend.
“The Federal Government have organised the panel discussions… my understanding is that the communication has been less than ideal,” Ms Jarvis said.
“It is disappointing that there wasn’t more notice given… but there’s still opportunities for growers to have their say online.
“I’m really encouraged that West Australian growers are getting out there and actually speaking to the panel, and that the panel is travelling extensively.”
The meetings were intended to facilitate consultation with “targeted gatherings of producers and other relevant stakeholders”, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said.
These included “grower groups, meat processing groups and other businesses in the supply chain” contacted in the fortnight before the visit.
The panel was instead met with about 80 angry farmers in Moora and about 90 in York that same afternoon.
Some 120 farmers attended the Narrogin meeting on Tuesday morning, while about 200 showed up in Katanning on Wednesday morning.
Mr Glyde apologised on Tuesday and admitted the panel had “got it wrong” by not advertising the meetings to the public.
“We thought we would reach out to grower groups and their networks so we could consult with them and they would feed that information back to their members,” he said.
“We get the message we have done the wrong thing and we are here now, so let’s make the most of it.”
Ms Jarvis said there had been a “great turnout” at the meetings and urged those who were not able to attend to submit feedback online.
A series of “open, public virtual forums” are set to be held in May to “reach a wider audience of stakeholders and provide an open opportunity for participation in the consultation,” according to DAFF.
“The details and dates of these forums will be promoted widely, including on the department’s website, via social media, and direct communication with industry and other stakeholders,” a spokesman said.
Ms Jarvis, who is the Member for the South West Region, where much of WA’s sheep production is located, said she had been “keeping in regular contact” with producers.
Though she has repeatedly stated her support for the trade, Ms Jarvis said she would “not dictate to the Federal Government” how it should manage the consultation process.
“I’m happy that the panel has really expert people on there,” Ms Jarvis said.
“I understand that they have been listening… the producers I’ve spoken to have been happy with the level of engagement.”
The panel includes well-known WA farmer Sue Middleton, former RSPCA chief executive Heather Neil and retired Northern Territory Labor MP Warren Snowdon.
Miling farmer Tony White, who attended the Moora meeting, was critical of Labor’s policy but said the panel did “a good job” under tough circumstances.
“The panel chair, he did a good job at chairing it, and I think everyone was respectful of the panel,” Mr White said.
“They just wanted a few of us growers to show up there and be part of the show, and all of a sudden it got out and snowballed on them.”
The panel must submit its report to Senator Watt by late September.
Senator Watt’s office has been contacted for comment.
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