By Rowan Forster
Latrobe MP Jason Wood has vowed to continue fighting for animal rights, despite refusing to support a live sheep exports ban in a parliamentary backflip on Monday.
Mr Wood and colleagues Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson failed to cross the floor to stop the trade they tirelessly campaigned against and labelled “heinous”, using their deciding votes to quash the bill.
The push by Labor in the House of Representatives to have the controversial practice debated and voted on went down 70-72.
Ley and Henderson found their hands tied after accepting positions in Scott Morrison’s ministry.
To cross the floor, they would have needed to quit their new roles.
While Mr Wood would not have sacrificed a ministerial position to cross the floor, he said his credibility was at stake.
“Me crossing the floor wouldn’t have made a difference in this vote and I would have lost credibility – and the ability to fight for animal rights in the future,” he said.
“I’ve never crossed the floor in parliament – I want to work within my own party to get results.
“I have always worked in government to get the best bang for buck for animal welfare and I will continue to do so.”
As backbenchers the trio led a government backlash against the live export trade after horrific footage surfaced showing the deaths of thousands of sheep heading toward the Middle East.
The Latrobe MP said he is advocating having independent veterinarians stationed on all outbound ships to assess if cruelty is taking place.
“I’m focused on getting rid of the bad,” he said.
“My role is to work in government to get that done and at the same time to pursue a complete ban on imports of rhino ivory and pharmaceutical animal testing.”
Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon blasted the trio – accusing them of selling out in favour of their own interests.
“Sussan Ley, Sarah Henderson and Jason Wood gave up their convictions yesterday,” he said.
“They should stand up, stand by their convictions, return to their original positions and join Labor in voting for the phase out of this trade.
“They talked about the horrors of this trade and they said there were no other choices but to ban it and they said the quicker it happened, the better off we would all be.
“The overwhelming majority of Australians now want this live sheep export trade phased out.”
The bill – co-signed by the Greens, Derryn Hinch and Tim Storer – passed the Senate in a narrow 31-28 vote, putting further pressure on the Morrison government to act.
Under the proposed bill, live sheep exports would be prohibited in the northern summer during a transitional period of five years, after which all live sheep exports would be banned.
While the Morrison government is yet to support the ban, it has introduced rules to increase space allocated to sheep on ships by 39%, improve ventilation and increase penalties for directors who flout the standards.