Ludwig at fault: producers win live-ex court case

Ludwig at fault: producers win live export court case

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Commonwealth to pay following Brett Cattle Co Federal Court ruling

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A landmark ruling in the Federal Court has found in favour of the cattle producer lead litigants of a class action against the Australian Government stemming from the 2011 live export ban to Indonesia.

Justice Rares has just handed down his finding that then Labor Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig committed misfeasance in public office when he made the ban order on 7 June 2011.

The Northern Territory's Brett Cattle Company is now entitled to substantial damages and the former minister and the Commonwealth must pay its costs of the proceeding.

The parties will return to court in several weeks to deal with what needs to be done to enable group members to be compensated.

Justice Rares found the ban order was invalid and that Mr Ludwig was "recklessly indifferent" as to the availability of his power to make the ban order in its absolutely prohibitory terms without providing any power of exception and as to the injury which the order, when effectual, was calculated to produce.

He found the minister knew there were supply chains in Indonesia that had, or readily could be, adjusted to have a closed loop system with animal welfare standards that were at least compliant with the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) Code.

Justice Rares said: "He made the ban order shutting his eyes to the risk that it might be invalid and to the damage that it was calculated to cause persons in the position of Brett Cattle."

He described the ban order as capricious and unreasonable.

The case, which spelt out the crippling of the live-ex industry and the livelihoods of families and communities across Northern Australia and Indonesia stemming from the shutting down of the trade for six months in mid 2011, has been before the court for six years, including 18 months of deliberation.

The minister's decision came in response to unprecedented public backlash ignited by dramatic television footage of animal cruelty filmed by animal activists in Indonesia abattoirs.

The core of the applicants' argument was that the government did not need to ban the trade and therefore that decision was in fact illegal.

The applicants are seeking $600m in compensation, which was the estimate of the losses incurred by the 300 entities involved.

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