The Federal Government will not appeal the Federal Court’s live export cattle ruling, paving the way for more than 300 class action claimants to be compensated for loss income due to the 2011 decision to ban cattle to Indonesia.
The Coalition government had been assessing its options following Justice Stephen Rares’ June decision that then-Labor Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig acted in a “capricious” and “unreasonable” manner when enacting the ban, and that he knew of the consequences of his actions but did it anyway in a “recklessly indifferent” manner.
The government determined it would not appeal the decision.
On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told Mix 104.9 that the decision not to appeal was simply “the right thing to do”.
“We knew that pastoralists, cattle producers had for nine years been living with the consequences [of] a knee-jerk, atrocious decision by the former Labor government by the former minister Joe Ludwig, based on a television program done in haste,” he said. [It was] done unnecessarily, and it put the lives and livelihoods of those great cattle producers, particularly in the north, at risk, and you know for some, they still haven’t recovered. Many of the Aboriginal stockmen found that difficult to even gain work after it. It was a blow the industry could ill afford.”
Former NT Cattlemen’s Association CEO Tracey Hayes, who facilitated the class action, said the government’s decision not to appeal has finally brought the “emotional rollercoaster” to an end.
“It’s [been] overwhelming to be honest and I did take a moment to shed a tear,” she told Mix 104.9. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster from my perspective, but I just can’t imagine what the people that have been impacted by this firsthand, how they felt last night to go to bed knowing that it’s finally over.
“Lives have been destroyed over the decision of a government and we should never, ever have been in this position. It’s fantastic to be able to just rest knowing that it’s over. We were told by many that we didn’t have a hope in hell and so it’s a quiet fist pump moment to know that we prevailed.”
NT CLP Senator Sam McMahon applauded the government’s decision.
“The economy of the Northern Territory is deeply dependent upon the live cattle export industry and it is positive to see this Coalition government is ending this costly, drawn out saga so this industry can focus on doing what it does best – create jobs and boost the economy,” Senator McMahon said in a statement.
The case relied on a misfeasance in public office argument that Justice Rares upheld.
But the Federal Government indicated it does not agree with that aspect of the ruling, voicing concerns about future ministerial decisions being challenged in court under the same grounds.
“The government disagrees with some of the principles as they have been applied by the court,” said federal Attorney General Christian Porter. “The court’s reasoning in this matter represents a departure from existing legal principles governing both the validity of delegated legislation and the tort of misfeasance in public office.”
Territory family-owned cattle company Brett Cattle was awarded $2.9 million last month as other plaintiff’s claims of loss were being calculated.