Australia restricts live sheep exports after scandal

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Rebel Liberal backbencher Sussan Ley will reportedly push on with a private member's bill to phase out live sheep exports within five years, despite the outcome of a government-ordered review into the trade.

The Australian government, which relies on the support on rural voters, rejected a ban on live exports as it would cause too much damage to the country's agricultural sector, Agricultural Minister David Littleproud said on Thursday.

Australia's live animal export trade, worth more than Aus$800 million annually, has been under scrutiny in recent years after footage shot at offshore abattoirs showed cattle being mistreated.

Animal welfare activists accused the government of "double standards" on animal protection, calling for a ban on live exports. The WA government has sought legal advice on whether it can impose its own restrictions on live exports from its ports.

Horrific footage of dead and dying sheep on ships bound for the Middle East has prompted sweeping reforms to Australia's live export trade, but Canberra stopped short of an outright ban Thursday.

Companies face fines of over $4 million, and directors either 10 years jail or $2 million dollars.

All sheep and cattle ships will have an independent observer on board to send vision and reports to the regulator on a daily basis.

Mr Littleproud, who will shortly travel to the Gulf for meetings on the future of the industry, said the government was "aware of the importance of not disrupting food security in partner nations". "We have a responsibility, not only to the animals, but to our farmers, to get it right".

Labor, the Greens, crossbenchers and animal welfare groups also dismissed the government's announcements, arguing the trade must end.

Australia will also introduce new legislation to penalise any exporter that contravenes new welfare standards.

"If you leave a dog in a hot vehicle (in Australia) you are prosecuted and you potentially go to jail", said Lyn White from Animals Australia, the advocacy group that released the shocking video.

"What I can give the public a guarantee about is that it is a better system than we now have", Ms Simson said.