THE Federal Court's decision against the Gillard government's 2011 live export ban is a watershed moment that will set boundaries for the way governments act in the future, says Cattle Council of Australia president Tony Hegarty.
"(Former Agriculture Minister) Joe Ludwig's actions undermined the integrity of the Australian beef cattle industry," Mr Hegarty said.
"The impact was devastating to northern producers and communities and it trickled right through our industry.
"When our political leaders act in a rash and unpredictable manner, our overseas partners lose confidence in our product and trading relationship.
"This hurt our trading relationship with Indonesia by taking away surety of supply, something our industry prides itself on.
"At the same time, it hurt our relationship with other trading partners by undermining our reliability and world-leading animal welfare standards."
In a landmark decision that has Australia's beef industry celebrating, Justice Steven Rares ruled on Tuesday that former Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig had committed the offence of 'misfeasance in public office'.
In a damning ruling, Justice Rares said the ban order imposed by Senator Ludwig on live exports to Indonesia was invalid, because a total prohibition was capricious and unreasonable.
The Brett Cattle Company was entitled to substantial damages and the Commonwealth must pay court cost, he ruled. A class action is seeking $600 million in compensation over the incident.
Former Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association chief executive and class action facilitator Tracey Hayes said justice had finally been served, nine years after the devastating ban was imposed.
The case had been before the Federal Court for the past six years, including the past 18 months in deliberation.
"The decision by Justice Rares represents a win in the interests of process, good governance and a fair go and is recognition of the devastatingly poor government decision that sent shockwaves across the Australian agriculture sector," Ms Hayes said.
The decision by Justice Rares represents a win in the interests of process, good governance and a fair go and is recognition of the devastatingly poor government decision that sent shockwaves across the Australian agriculture sector.
"It is clear that something happened within the processes of the then Government on the evening of 7 June 2011, that saw the minister's preferred and recommended course of action disregarded.
"It puts all governments on notice and sets a pathway that will serve to ensure a higher standard of government decision making into the future.
"Most importantly it brings closure to a very challenging chapter for Emily, Colin, Alison and Hamish Brett of the Brett Cattle Company and the many, many other northern Australian farmers and businesses whose lives and livelihoods were thrown into chaos as a result of the shutdown."
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said the result would not have been possible without the support Australian Farmers Fighting Fund.
"Since 1985, farmers have been investing in the AFFF to take the fight up on their behalf," Ms Simson said.
"The AFFF intervenes in cases that have the potential to curtail the continued vibrancy of our farm sector, regional communities and Australia as a whole - this was one such case.
"(The live export decision) highlights the great strength agriculture and regional Australia has when it unites for a common cause.
"This has been a monumental battle and it won't be the last agriculture faces.
"A Team Agriculture approach will undoubtedly yield the best results."
Mr Hegarty said Australian beef producers were world leaders in animal welfare, and should be respected for it.
"The 2011 ban caused an animal welfare disaster, when cattle were left stranded on ships, in ports and in holding yards," Mr Hegarty said.
"Our cattle producers have developed an Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) to uphold animal welfare standards in receiving countries," Mr Hegarty said.
"No other country assures animal welfare standards after export as we do in Australia."
The process to determine compensation will begin later in the month.