Labor divided over live export ban

Sophie Moore

A federal Labor plan to end live sheep exports has failed to win the support of Western Australia's premier, who would rather weed out the industry's "bad apples".

Labor leader Bill Shorten had previously committed to wait for the findings of a review into summer live exports, after a broadcast showed sheep dying of intense heat stress on an August voyage to the Middle East.

But the party reversed its position on Thursday, with the opposition's agriculture spokesman Joe Fitzgibbon instead pledging Labor would phase out the trade and transition into meat processing on Australian soil.

But Labor Premier Mark McGowan said the industry should be allowed to fix its issues before any ban is discussed.

"Anyone who saw that vision on television would be appalled but there's thousands potentially - people who work in trucking, farming, on the wharves, in the communities - who rely upon this trade," Mr McGowan told reporters on Sunday.

He wants to make sure the trade is as responsible and humane as possible and urged farmers to take responsibility for fixing the industry and to throw out the "bad apples".

Mr McGowan backed his Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan who has called on exporters to suspend voyages to the Middle East in the hot northern summer months.

"That's the sort of thing I want to see put in place before such time we think about closing the industry," Mr McGowan said.

Live exporters found guilty of animal cruelty will face up to 10 years' jail and multi-million dollar fines under tough new measures to be introduced by the federal government.

The state could prosecute exporters who failed to meet the new standards, including a requirement for independent observers and lower ship stocking densities, Mr McGowan said.