Legislation to end the export of live sheep by sea by 2028 has passed both houses of the Australian Parliament and is now law.

The Australian House of Representatives first passed the legislation, which was then following by the passing by the Australian Senate.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt said this was a significant moment for animal welfare and enables the rollout of a range of financial assistance under the AUD$107 million phase out transition support package.

Minister Watt said: “We made a commitment at two elections to phase out the export of live sheep by sea, after years of community concern about the trade.

“Around 70% of west Australians support ending this industry and the parliament has now acted.

The minister called the law “a critical foundation for transitioning towards the end of the trade”.

He added that the legislation will deliver “certainty” for the sheep industry to “make decisions for the future” by May 1, 2028, the date the law will come into effect, Minister Watt said.

Minister Watt said the Albanese government is committed to supporting the sheep industry to continue to thrive, including by leveraging more onshore meat processing, particularly in western Australia (WA).

The minister stated that live sheep exports by sea from Australia have been “plummeting over the last 20 years” and that it is “an industry that’s been in long-term decline”.

Explaining that these exports represent “less than 1% of Western Australia’s agriculture sector,” Minister Watt said that Australians and their trading partners “buy a lot more processed sheepmeat than live exported sheep.

“Our sheepmeat exports are worth $4.5 billion and the domestic industry worth $3.5 billion, while the live trade is worth just $77 million.

“Enhancing demand for Australian sheep products here in Australia and in other international markets is a key component of our transition plan,” Minister Watt added.

The chief executive officer of the Australian Livestock Exporters Council Mark Harvey said that while the legislation was being debated in the senate, there was a “patronising insistence from government senators that this policy presented an ‘opportunity’ for WA sheep farmers and our trading partners”.

“This has been repeatedly refuted by industry and it demonstrated a wilful ignorance by the government towards the facts and the devastating impacts of this bill. This government showed they simply do not care about WA agriculture,” Harvey added.

Harvey said: “With the rushed and arrogant manner in which this bill has been passed, the government has now crossed that line and the agriculture sector is left with little choice, but to fight in a manner that has not been seen before. The sector is mobilised, united and furious.”