Cattle producers hit by the shock decision to shut down live exports in 2011 are getting their day in court this week, as part of an industry action against the Federal Government.
Federal Court proceedings began this week in a class action brought by Northern Territory cattle producers against the Federal Government for the 2011 shut down of the live cattle trade to Indonesia.
The producers are seeking to recover losses incurred as a result of the overnight suspension of the trade, which saw the fate of tens of thousands of cattle put into limbo, farming families left without an income, supply chain businesses put to the wall and international trade relationships damaged.
In a landmark case, the court will consider evidence gathered from more than 100,000 sources, including detail from emails, telephone conversations and memos from within the Government and the then Minister for Agriculture, Joe Ludwig’s office.
The Government has conceded that loss has been suffered and the court will consider the evidence of detriment from key industry sources including lead applicant, the Brett Cattle Company, in order to establish a case of misfeasance on the part of former Federal Minister Ludwig.
The industry will argue that, in enacting the second export control order and closing the live export trade, Federal Minister Ludwig misused his power as Minister for Agriculture.
If successful, this will be the first time a case of misfeasance has been proven against an Australian government minister.
“The importance of this case cannot be understated,” Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) Chief Executive Tracey Hayes said.
“What happened in 2011 cannot be allowed to happen again. Governments need to know that knee jerk reactions like that in 2011 have no place in good government, our agricultural export industries and the lives and businesses of the northern cattle industry,” Ms Hayes said.
The hearing will take part in two blocks – with this week marking the start of proceedings to determine the Government’s liability. The second part of proceedings will be heard in December and will focus on determining the loss sustained by impacted producers and the greater cattle supply chain.
The Australian Farmers Fighting Fund is supporting the case.