IN THE NEWS: Sharkie urges Morrison to allow free vote on bill to ban live exports


IN THE NEWS: On DEC 3, 2018

Crossbencher Rebekah Sharkie has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, urging him to allow his MPs a free vote on a bill she has introduced to ban live animal exports.

The Centre Alliance MP revived a parliamentary push to phase in a five-year ban on the trade after horrific footage of a mass death at sea sparked renewed community outrage.

Speaking to The Age and The Herald, the MP said the volume of correspondence she received on live exports - 70 and counting on Monday alone - was more over the long-term than on any other issue.

She said while she would not horse-trade to secure a debate and vote on her bill, she had written to the Prime Minister urging a free vote which would almost certainly secure its passage.

"It's clear that this is an issue where many on the government side want change because their community wants change,"  she said. "Opposition to the trade is across party lines, I've even had sheep farmers call me and say we need to move past this.

"The best outcome would be to allow a free vote, I think we would have the numbers in the house and that would be a good outcome for the government because it would show they were listening."

The South Australian MP said the government could make the case for a ban by highlighting the "good-paying regional jobs in Australia" an increased local industry would create in electorates like hers.

Ms Sharkie's bill is the third bill proposing a ban on live exports in the lower house. Hers mirrors the bill proposed by Coalition MPs Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson who put forward a private members bill before they were made ministers after the change in leadership from Malcolm Turnbull to Scott Morrison.

The pair remain opposed to the trade and support phasing it out but voted down an attempt to bring on debate on their own bill, accusing the Labor opposition of playing politics.

No bill can be brought on for debate unless the government allows it or an absolute majority of 76 MPs can be found.

Labor's agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon has moved an amendment to a government bill demanding tougher penalties for exporters caught mistreating animals that would also phase in a ban. That amendment only requires a simple majority - half of MPs in the chamber - to pass, which Labor could realistically achieve.

Labor has committed to phasing out the industry if it wins the election expected in May but Ms Sharkie said she was still an "optimist" and believed the Parliament could act sooner, despite just a truncated parliamentary session set for the early new year.

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