The federal government has taken the first step towards phasing out the live export trade, forming a panel of experts who will help determine how and when to end the trade.

The panel, to be announced on Friday, will be chaired by senior public servant Philip Glyde .

It also includes Warren Snowdon, a former Labor minister who opposed live export bans, Western Australian agriculture expert Susan Middleton and former RSPCA boss Heather Neil.

Former Labor MP Warren Snowdon will help oversee the phase out of the live export trade. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Labor promised to phase out live exports following a string of animal welfare scandals and public campaigning for the trade to end, but has never committed to a timeline.

It is believed that any phase-out would take five years. The Coalition supports maintaining the live export trade.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the panel, announced 10 months after the government’s election, was the first step in the process.

“Phasing out live sheep exports by sea is a complex issue that will impact farmers, businesses, our trading partners, and the communities that participate in the trade,” the minister said.

“I am also conscious that the wider Australian community is interested in the phase out, including those that want to see animal welfare maintained and improved. Farmers and other industry participants need time to prepare, and that’s why the phase out won’t take effect during this term of Parliament.”

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The panel will report to the minister in September.

In his valedictory speech, Snowdon listed opposing the banning of live cattle exports by the former Gillard government as one of his main policy gripes that he had inside the Labor caucus.

“ I also strongly opposed … the decision to ban live cattle exports from the Northern Territory,” he said.

“These decisions were unnecessary and caused hurt and harm.”

Alliance for Animals director Jed Goodfellow welcomed the formal start of the process.

“The independent panel includes a diverse mix of expertise and we’re confident they possess the collective experience and qualifications to ensure an appropriate transition within a reasonable timeframe is developed,” he said.

“What all stakeholders want in this debate is certainty and we look forward to engaging with the panel over the coming months on that task.

“Live sheep export has been a source of profound suffering to Australian livestock over the years and has reaped untold damage on the nation’s clean, green agricultural reputation.”

This week, The Australian reported that farming groups sent Watt a letter demanding the government retreat on its election policy, claiming that animal welfare campaigners would persist in their push to end the trade.

NFF president Fiona Simson said the industry would not sit quietly and watch as the entire trade was eliminated.

“We’re not interested in discussing a phase-out with the government,” she said.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson.Credit:Getty

Simson travelled with Watt to the UK and Europe recently.

Watt told Senate estimates that he was taken aback by the level of concern raised by Australia’s trading partners about the country’s animal welfare standards.

In response, Mark Harvey-Sutton from the Australian Livestock Exporters Council, said the industry had reformed.

“This is an industry that has reformed and supports thousands of workers in rural Western Australia and this move would threaten 3000 jobs within the supply chain locally,” he said.

Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi urged Labor to stare down the farming lobby.

“Labor went to the last two federal elections with a policy to end live sheep export, a measure that polling repeatedly shows is supported by a clear majority of people,” she said.

“The Government must stare down this brazen attempt by a cruel and brutal industry to bully it into backflipping on that promise.

“The industry is right on one thing though: Animal welfare campaigners won’t stop at just the live sheep industry. Live animal export should be shut down entirely, as New Zealand is doing. It is simply incompatible with animal welfare.”

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