FORMER MLA boss Don Heatley has revealed that he warned Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig not to ban live cattle exports last year for fears the crisis would devastate northern Australian families and businesses well beyond the month-long trade halt.
Mr Heatley, who bowed out of the role of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) chairman last November, was one of many beef industry identities taking pause this week to recall the “darkest of days” last year when activists' revelations of livestock cruelty effectively scuttled a $650 million export industry, leaving producers and their families reeling.
“The effect on livestock is one thing, but it’s the effect this has had on people - good, hard-working Australian families - who watched overnight the devastation of their businesses,” he said.
“That's been the hardest to take.
“Even though it might not be headlines anymore, the flow-on from that has been enormous and will continue on.
“There are families (still) who will go to the wall as a result of this, I’m sure.”
Despite MLA copping criticism during the height of the debate last year for failing the industry with poor self-regulation, leading to the federal government's more restrictive ESCAS safeguards introduced late last year, Mr Heatley maintains the month-long ban was unwarranted.
“I look back and say the decision was wrong in the first place, and the result for the industry just breaks my heart to see what happened,” he said.
“It was a short-sighted decision that has had terrible, long-term consequences.
“I did my utmost to try to talk him (Senator Ludwig) out of it, but that was the decision he made and we cannot rewrite history all we can do is live with the consequences of that decision as best we can.
“The best thing for the industry is to pick up the pieces as best as it can and move forward.”
This time last year the Federal Government banned live cattle export to Indonesia in a knee-jerk decision after the ABC’s Four Corners had aired footage of animal cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs.
Cattlemen across the Northern Territory are still trying to come to terms with the decision that left the entire industry in limbo, and the effects of the month-long ban can still be felt across the region.