National Farmers’ Federation has slammed the Federal Government for refusing to rule out an appeal of the landmark court decision.
National Farmers’ Federation has slammed the Federal Government for refusing to rule out an appeal of the landmark court decision.

Powerful farmers’ group slams Federal Govt over court case

AUSTRALIA'S powerful farmers lobby group has slammed the Federal Government for refusing to rule out an appeal of the landmark court decision that will see NT cattle graziers awarded hundreds of millions of dollars over damage caused by the snap 2011 live export ban.

The National Farmers Federation's (NFF) criticism of Prime Minister Scott Morrison came yesterday just hours after the Federal Court ordered the Commonwealth to pay NT's Brett Cattle Company $2.9 million in damages over the 2011 export ban.

Federal Court Justice Steven Rares, in a landmark verdict early this month, ruled the export ban order made by then Labor agriculture minister Joe Ludwig was invalid, "capricious" and "unreasonable".

Working through costs yesterday, it was decided in court that an additional 88,000 head of cattle, at a minimum, could have been exported to Indonesia if the ban hadn't been put in place.

Colin and Hamish Brett at the Berrimah Farm Export feedlot following the historic Federal Court ruling. Brett Cattle Company was the lead litigant in the class action. Picture: Katrina Bridgeford
Colin and Hamish Brett at the Berrimah Farm Export feedlot following the historic Federal Court ruling. Brett Cattle Company was the lead litigant in the class action. Picture: Katrina Bridgeford

Compensation costs to other members of the 300-strong class action will be calculated at $2.15 per kg of steer and $1.95 per kg of heifer.

Former NT Cattlemen's Association chief executive Tracey Hayes said the total head of cattle could exceed 88,000 and compensation would not be capped if the evidence stacked up.

Importantly, the court has left open the possibility of "other categories of loss" so there is potential for claimants to return to court to argue for compensation not directly related to cattle export, such as transport or feed.

Ms Hayes said the Brett Cattle compensation figure was binding, meaning the Government would have to front up the cash regardless of any appeal.

Mr Morrison said yesterday he had "every intention" of making sure the "hurt and loss" of cattle exporters due to the ban was addressed, while also saying the Government "was still considering" an appeal.

Fiona Simson, president of National Farmers’ Federation. Picture: Simon Santi, The West Australian
Fiona Simson, president of National Farmers’ Federation. Picture: Simon Santi, The West Australian

The Government has previously signalled it would pay off the class action but contest the point of law.

The NFF, a major player in the class action through its Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund, swiftly hit out at Mr Morrison for adding "further uncertainty" and "anguish" and labelled his government "deeply disappointing". "Monetary compensation is an important element but equally important is the matter of principle," NFF president Fiona Simson said.

"We are seeking an assurance from this Government that such reckless decision making will never be allowed to happen again.

"The failure to back the industry fully indicates a disregard for the Brett family and the many families and businesses like them who have already endured enough."The official 28-day appeal clock available to the Commonwealth Government starts ticking today.

Lawyers for the pastoralists and the Commonwealth will head back to court on August 20 to work out how the class action will be administered going forward.

Originally published as Powerful farmers' group slams Federal Govt over cattle court case


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