Damn Lies,

and Statistics........Mark Twain

The truth of the $ value of live export

This is an often quoted cliche when compiling information and representing it to the benefit of the purpose rather than the actual facts involved.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is the officially recognised Australian government agency that collects and publishes statistical information about Australia and its people. The Australian government accepts their findings as true and accurate.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 establishes the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as an independent statutory authority. The ABS produces an annual publication, the Year Book Australia. It provides a comprehensive and detailed statistical overview of various aspects of the economy and social conditions in Australia. Our data has been sourced from the 2007 edition of this publication.

The following data comparisons will show that the industry based figures which we are told are not sourced vary so markedly from that of the official data from the ABS, we suggest that someone’s data is flawed but leave the decision as to whose to the integrity of the reader.


The industry claims:

Modern farming generates $103 billion-a-year in production for the national economy (underpinning 12% of GDP)
(Source: & National Farmers’ Federation )

Official Australian ABS Fact:

Chapter 14 of the Yearbook is dedicated to Australian Agriculture and states;
‘While Australian Agriculture no longer contributes a large share of gross domestic product (GDP) – averaging around 3% in recent years – it utilises a large proportion of natural resources, accounting for 70% of water consumption and almost 60% of Australia’s land use. The gross value of total Australian agricultural production in 2004-05 was $35.6 billion. (Source: ABS Product: 7501.0).

The live export industry claims:

The live export trade contributes $1.8 billion to the economy. (

ABS Fact:

Gross Value of Live Sheep and Cattle Exports (a)
Sheep ($)
2001 - 02
$ 3,391,705,000
$ 525,535,000
2002 - 03
$ 4,408,235,000
$ 569,288,000
2003 - 04
$ 2,266,457,000
$ 317,850,000
2004 - 05
$ 206,678,000
$ 374,060,000
2005 - 06
$ 291,453,000
$ 358,359,000

(a) Excludes pure bred breeding animals

The live export industry claims:

'The live export industry provides employment for 13,000 people'. ( The industry continues to report that employment in the live trade is on the increase. The Hassall Report of 1999 had the trade employing over 9,000. This figure was revised in 2006 (again by an industry funded study by Hassall and Associates) to 13,000. (We wish to add that the group producing the Hassall report are affiliated with the live export industry.)

Independently assessed facts and figures figures:

The Heilbron Report was commissioned by the 'Australian Meat Processor Corporation Limited', and undertaken by SG Heilbron Pty Ltd . The report was completed in April 2000 and the findings published in the Heilbron report established that the trade employs just over 3000 people. These are confirmed as jobs which exist because of the live animal trade. All other jobs claimed by the industry would exist regardless of the continuation of *live export. The report goes onto say that live exports costs some $1.7 billion in lost GDP; around $280 million in household income and about 12,000 jobs – mostly in regional areas.

*The figures provided by the industry in the Hassall report include dentists, doctors, bankers, insurance salesmen even the lady who sold cigarettes to the wife of the man who's brother sometimes drives a sheep truck. The industry included anyone they could use to inflate their figures, however these have been determined to be misleading even if industry and the govt who support industry are not willing to admit this to be so.

ABS Fact:

Agriculture and Services to Agricultural Industries, Employment
Males (‘000)
Females (‘000)
Persons (‘000)

Official Australian ABS data beyond a broad industry level is not published in the Yearbook however, the table clearly shows that employment in the Agricultural sector has decreased by over 81,300 the last 5 years. The ABS uses the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) to determine the predominant industry in which a person works and does not have a specific classification code for people for whom it could be determined are employed solely in the live export industry. Indeed, ABS major economic indicators such as the Average Weekly Earnings Survey do not even include the Agricultural industry division when collecting and compiling data.



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