THE Morrison government is still to rule out appealing a damning Federal Court judgement on a decision by the then Gillard government to ban the export of live cattle to Indonesia almost a decade ago.
Justice Steven Rares ruled on Tuesday that then Labor Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig had committed misfeasance in public office when he made the ban order on June 7, 2011.
"The ban order was invalid," Justice Rares said.
"That was because it prohibited all exports without any provision allowing him to make exceptions so as to allow exporters to carry on their lawful business where they already did, or readily could, have a closed loop supply chain in Indonesia with animal welfare standards at least equivalent to those in the OIE Code.
"Such a total prohibition was capricious and unreasonable and made the ban order invalid."
A class action led by the Brett Cattle Company based at Waterloo Station, NT, is seeking some $600 million in compensation for affected producers across northern Australia.
Despite the damning judgement, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has pulled up well short of ruling out an appeal, issuing a two sentence statement.
"I acknowledge the decision that has been made by the Federal Court today," Mr Littleproud said. "The government will now carefully work through the judgement before making any further comment."
Queensland Country Life was referred to the Attorney General's office when it sought to clarify the timeframe for a decision on an appeal.
The case had been before the Federal Court for six years, including 18 months in deliberation.
Queensland Senator Susan McDonald said she her government should accept the Federal Court's decision and pay the required compensation.
"The ban in 2011 decimated not just the industry but all its supporting industries," Senator McDonald said.
"In addition to graziers, transport companies, mechanics, suppliers and fencers just to name a few, were smashed virtually overnight.
"It's impossible to put into words the hardship people suffered as a result of this ill-thought-out kneejerk ban."
Senator McDonald said beef from cattle destined for Indonesia had flooded the domestic market, crippling prices and impacting on producers across Australia.
"Graziers already battle the uncertainties of commodity prices and weather, so to have your own government attack you like this was entirely unexpected and - in the words of Justice Steven Rares - was capricious and unreasonable."
Senator McDonald said the live export trade was both heavily regulated and scrutinised.
"As a result, our animal welfare standards are the highest in the world, so when Australia doesn't supply, animals suffer as demand for meat is filled by less scrupulous exporters," she said.
"If we allow opponents of live export to influence government policy, we are letting animals down."