Two Liberal MPs who oppose live sheep exports have voted in federal parliament to keep the industry open.
Sussan Ley, the member for Farrer in southern NSW, introduced a private members bill to ban the industry in May. She was supported by her Liberal colleague Sarah Henderson, the member for Corangamite in Victoria.
Ms Ley and Ms Henderson voted with Coalition government MPs to block a bill which made its way from the Senate to the Lower House, were it was put forward for debate by the Opposition.
The bill to ban long haul live sheep exports was sponsored by Derryn Hinch in the Senate this morning, approved by lunchtime and arrived in the Lower House today.
The bill was defeated in a vote 72 to 70, with support from some of the crossbench.
Ms Ley’s private members bill remains a current item, but the Government has prevented it from going to a vote and it’s on hold indefinitely.
Both Liberal MPs supporting a live-ex ban were moved from the backbench and into Cabinet in the reshuffle that followed Malcolm Turnbull’s axing from Prime Minister.
Ms Ley was promoted to Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Ms Henderson to Assistant Minister for Social Services.
With the numbers in the government’s favour, they would have to cross the floor and vote with the Opposition, which backs a live-ex ban, to pass legislation.
But the Liberal’s policy says an MP must resign a ministerial position, and move off the front bench, to vote against party policy.
Ms Ley and Ms Henderson issued a statement today, criticising the Opposition’s move to debate the bill.
“Labor’s actions today were a disingenuous attempt to disrupt Parliament masquerading behind the cause of animal welfare,” they said.
“As members of the ministry, it is no longer open to us to support any private member’s bill or the bill passed by the Senate today.”
The MPs said they will seek to ban the industry through policy change, rather than legislation, and they will now wait until findings were released from the Moss Moss review
“Our personal conviction on this issue remains and we will continue to advocate for a change in Coalition policy and for a phase out of this awful trade.
“We remain committed to seeing the end of long haul live sheep exports and look forward to the Moss review further challenging the regulatory basis of the trade,” the statement said.
The Moss review is investigating the culture, capability and investigative powers of the industry’s independent regulator. Commissioned by Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, it’s due to report at the end of August.
”The impending release of the Moss Review provides the government with a further opportunity to impose tough new rules relating to live exports,” Ms Ley and Ms Henderson said.