Empty FOI – Empty Promises: Communication Blackout for Agriculture Ministers Uncovered

The Opposition has revealed, under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, Cook Labor Government Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis and her ministerial staff had zero recorded communication with the Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt over Labor’s Live-Sheep Export ban from 20 June to 31 July 2023, a crucial time of ‘consultation’ with communities.

The revelations come despite Minister Jarvis insisting she had done all she can to stand up for the $80 million industry.

Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Nationals WA Shane Love said Minister Jarvis has questions to answer to the sheep farmers of Western Australia.

“While producers and impacted community members were fronting up to be ‘consulted’, their Minster failed to write a single letter, email or text to her federal counterpart not just calling for a reverse to the ban but raising it with him at all.”

“Minister Jarvis’ communication blackout occurred during a period when the sheep industry experienced a 40 percent drop in sheep prices and impacts of the looming ban were reverberating through the industry, raising significant doubts about her commitment to the interests of WA’s sheep industry,” Mr Love said.

“To claim she has done ‘all she can’ to protect this crucial industry without ever standing up to the Minister responsible for decimating it is at best questionable.

“If this is so, where were the emails? Where were the calls? Where were the texts? Furthermore, where are the crisis talks we and the industry have called for?”

Deputy Leader of the Opposition Peter Rundle responded to Minister Jarvis’ comments that in the six-week ‘black out’ period, she had three meetings with Federal Minister Murray Watt.

“Minister Jarvis claims three meetings took place, and yet there is no evidence or coordination nor communication of agendas, outcomes or action plans. If these meetings did in fact occur, why didn’t her office disclose them? What was discussed?” Mr Rundle said.

“Minister Jarvis’ remarks about working hard for sheep farmers appear to be unfounded. Ministers that work hard don’t need to defend themselves, the evidence is in the results. This FOI request proves Minister Jackie Jarvis says one thing to the media and another thing behind closed doors.

“The Nationals, on the other hand, voted weeks ago to unanimously remove Labor’s live-sheep exporting ban as a matter of priority when elected at the next Federal Election.”

The FOI request obtained by the Opposition included items from formal letters and briefing notes to texts and diary entries, between the Minister and her office, and the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Food and his office referencing “Live Export” between the dates 20 June 2023 and 31 July 2023. This discovery directly contradicts Minister Jarvis’ claim that the Cook Labor Government was “pushing hard to ensure the best deal for the state’s sheep industry” and Premier Roger Cook’s comments in Parliament that stated Minister Jarvis had been and would continue to be strong in her advocacy for the industry.