Live export ban ruling could be appealed

Matt CoughlanCountryman
The sun sets at a Pilbara cattle station.
Camera IconThe sun sets at a Pilbara cattle station. Credit: Nic Ellis

The Morrison government could appeal a landmark court ruling which found against a previous Labor government's decision to ban live cattle exports.

Justice Steven Rares ruled last week then-agriculture minister Joe Ludwig committed misfeasance in public office when the live trade to Indonesia was stopped for six months in 2011.

The Federal Court class action of around 300 members, led by Brett Cattle Company, had sought $600 million.

The current coalition government will have to pay any damages awarded as a result of the ban.

It is understood multiple coalition MPs raised the issue at a joint partyroom meeting in Canberra on Tuesday.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the tort of malfeasance had been applied in a way he had not seen before.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the meeting the judgment raised “real issues”.

But he also said the government would make sure injustices suffered by the industry were dealt with.

An appeal could rankle some Nationals MPs, with some already calling for the government to accept the decision.

Queensland Nationals senator Susan McDonald last week said the live export ban had caused unimaginable heartbreak across industries.

“I sincerely hope the federal government accepts the justice's ruling and compensates appropriately,” she said.

Former cabinet minister Matt Canavan also wants the government to pay up, arguing justice has been delayed long enough.

NT Nationals senator Sam McMahon welcomed the court's decision, saying Labor’s knee-jerk reaction has caused immeasurable damage to the cattle industry.

The National Farmers' Federation has urged the government not to appeal.

“In these tough economic times, it would be irresponsible for the government to direct yet more taxpayers' money to appealing this decision. Enough is enough,” president Fiona Simson said.

The government has 21 days from the final hearing to appeal, with a damages hearing set down for June 21.

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