Australia, Industry Issues, Transport Features, Transport News

What does the live export ban mean for the transport industry?

Associations like the Western Roads Federation are calling for the industry to band together to prevent industry bans that could impact the wider Australian transport sector

As many trucks have signs depicting across the nation – ‘Without Trucks, Australia Stops’. In a variety of sectors, road transport has been a frequent presence, keeping industries mobile through wars, shortages and droughts.

A key part of Australia’s transport industry now faces scrutiny after the federal government announced plans in late May to end live sheep exports in Australia from 2028 onwards. Revealed by federal agriculture minister Murray Watt, the four-year exit strategy plans to completely phase the market out by May 1, 2028.

It drew a quick response from associations and industry members around the nation, culminating in a convoy of more than 1000 trucks on May 31 that travelled through Perth in protest of the decision.

Western Roads Federation Cam Dumesny is one of many in Western Australia who have quickly moved to denounce the government’s live sheep export ban.

“My maternal grandfather, born in 1892, was a shearer and I’m extremely proud of him, so this announcement hits close to home,” Dumesny told ATN.

“The Australian road transport industry should be deeply concerned about the political process behind the shutdown of the live export industry and the decision made.

“Regardless of whether you agree with live export or not, the political process is deeply troubling for an industry like ours which often has a negative public image to it, particularly among inner city activists and urban elites.”

When Watt made the announcement, Dumesny wasn’t the first to criticise it and its implications on the wider transport industry. WA Opposition leader called it a “very black day for WA” while federal Opposition leader Peter Dutton claimed he would reinstate the industry if the Coalition is elected into government at the next federal election.

The head of the WA Livestock Exporters Association John Cunnington told ABC News that the industry would continue fighting the decision.

“This is a direct attack on WA producers and I find it quite disgusting to be playing with people’s livelihoods in the way they are,” he told ABC News.

For Dumesny, he’s concerned about the motives behind the decision and what it means for other truck drivers and operators around Australia.

“The federal government was concerned about losing a Victorian seat at a recent by-election, so it struck a preference deal with a Victorian activist group to shut down WA’s live sheep export market,” he says.

“That deal destroys 3000 jobs in WA, including trucking jobs and transport companies, and it’s now being implemented with enthusiastic gusto by a federal minister from the inner city of Brisbane.”

Dumesny questions the implications of this move on the Australian transport industry, raising alarms that this could set a precedent for future decisions that ruin portions of the transport sector. With the next federal election due within the next 12 months, current polls indicate that the most likely outcome of the election is a Labour-Greens Coalition government.

For Dumesny and other concerned members of the transport industry, particularly in WA, the live sheep export ban decision has made them question what else may come under threat if the election does go down the expected path.

“If this does happen, it makes me wonder if an emissions tax will now be imposed on all road transport, as some environment groups are calling for?” Dumesny says.

RELATED ARTICLE: Keep the Sheep convoy fights live export ban in Perth

“Will trucks and vans be restricted from inner cities or be forced to pay congestion or emissions charges? Will live cattle export be shut down too, directly impacting even more transport companies?

“If this political process becomes the new norm, will we then also go on to see truck speed restrictions being lowered to 40 kmph from dusk to dawn on some regional roads, as was proposed by Canberra bureaucrats? The threats go on and on, and all of them drive up the cost of living for all Australians.”

In defence of the live sheep export market, Dumesny says Australia has the highest animal welfare standards in the world for live sheep export. This may mean that removing Australia from the trade won’t stop global live sheep export, but instead only lower global animal welfare standards.

The live sheep export market itself tried to win a social licence throughout Australia after having one in WA for these high standards, only to prove unsuccessful.

Dumesny sees similarities between that market and the wider transport industry, with both often having a “very negative public image”. Dumesny worries that the same people who opposed live sheep export and drove the decision to end the market also have a negative perception of the transport sector, potentially spelling trouble for the industry.

“The transport industry has also made its own efforts to win a social licence,” Dumesny says.

“Efforts by the WRF include projects throughout the net zero transition, productivity and diversity.”

In the net zero space, the WRF initiated a joint project with Curtin University to ask members what they identify as the barriers to adopting alternative fuel vehicles. Dumesny says it’s critical to know these challenges from the people buying these vehicles, with the report now being accepted for presentation at a global academic conference later this year.

WRF members have also been working on cleaner, safer and lower noise logistics solutions to meet the growing urban population needs while remaining productive. When it comes to productivity, the WRF has also looked to combat a major WA issue with heavy lift capacity to meet the surge in projects being announced.

Now, WRF members are working with a leading global AI company to identify productivity constraints and cost/emission effective solutions that can be implemented by governments.

“On top of this, our latest heavy vehicle driver training courses comprise 50 per cent women and 30 per cent Indigenous Australian students,” Dumesny says.“We’re also reaching out to other road user groups to collaborate on making roads safer and working with regional communities to identify transport barriers that inhibit their growth and social development.

“I’m not too sure what else we can do to prove to everyone how valuable our industry is.”

While the transport industry is putting in massive efforts to add to its social licence, Dumesny is concerned it’ll all mean nothing if the political processes on display in the WA live sheep export ban become normal.

As well as commending Jan Cooper and the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA (LRTAWA), Dumesny wants the industry to get behind the Keep the Sheep campaign who orchestrated the Perth convoy and sign the petition to reinstate the live sheep export industry before more transport jobs are threatened.

“The Australian transport industry needs to be very concerned about the political processes behind the live sheep export decision,” Dumesny says.

“If this process becomes the standard, then your sector of transport might be impacted next.”

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