NINE years after the Gillard government imposed its devastating ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia, the proverbial chooks have come home to roost.
In a landmark Federal Court decision, Justice Steven Rares has ruled then Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig had committed misfeasance - in other words misused his power in public office - when he made the industry wrecking ban order on June 7, 2011.
Justice Rares was not sparing in his criticism, saying the then Queensland senator was recklessly indifferent to both the absolutely prohibitory terms of the ban order and the injury it would produce.
Caving to pressure following ABC TV's shocking Four Corners program 'A Bloody Business', the Queensland Senator left the Australian beef industry to hang out to dry.
Essentially Ludwig - despite being advised by both his department and industry leaders including NTCA's Tracey Hayes, Elders' Troy Setter and then Meat and Livestock Australia chairman Don Heatley - chose to ignore actual and potential closed loop supply chains that had, or readily could have, met required animal welfare standards.
Justice Rares said a regulatory measure, such as the ban order, must be a proportionate response to meet the situation that it was intended to address.
"The law requires a decision-maker, when using a wide power, like the minister's powers under the Export Control Act, not to make unnecessary limitations on the common law right of persons to carry on their lawful business," Justice Rares said.
"One test to ascertain if a provision is unnecessary, is to consider if there is an obvious and compelling alternative."
There was, and Ludwig failed to do so.
In short Justice Rares said the ban order was invalid because because it was capricious and unreasonable.
It prohibited all live cattle exports despite knowing at least some exporters were carrying on a lawful business, or could have readily met animal welfare standards at least equivalent to those in the OIE Code.
"The minister plunged ahead regardless," Justice Rares ruled.
"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."
Now is time for the federal government to step up and ensure Brett Cattle Company and the broader, wrongly targeted live export industry is appropriately compensated.