The federal government has been ordered to pay almost $3 million in damages to a NT company after the previous Labor government’s decision to ban live cattle exports was found to be invalid.
Justice Steven Rares on June 2 ruled that then-agriculture minister Joe Ludwig acted recklessly and committed misfeasance in public office when he banned farmers from exporting live cattle to Indonesia for six months in 2011.
The Federal Court class action of about 300 members was led by Brett Cattle Company.
Justice Rares on Monday ordered the government to pay the company $2,936,936.99 damages as well as its legal courts.
In relation to other group members, he again found Mr Ludwig’s decision was invalid and he committed misfeasance in public office.
The next steps involves the arrangement of a scheme to resolve the claims of the other members.
Michael O’Meara SC for the government noted his client had 28 days to decide whether Justice Rares’ decision will be appealed.
The case was put over to August 20 for a case management hearing.
The issue of live exports had been controversial for many years but became volcanic when a May 2011 ABC Four Corners program aired footage showing the poor treatment of animals in facilities in Indonesia.
In his decision, the judge said Mr Ludwig 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”.
He was satisfied the minister was recklessly indifferent regarding his ability to make such an order without power of exception, and to the injury it would produce.