Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has left the door open for a ban on live exports during the northern hemisphere summer.
Vet Michael McCarthy is leading a review into the trade of sheep to the Middle East in the hottest months of the year after shocking footage emerged of animals dying in cruel conditions last year.
If the audit finds live exports during the northern summer are unsustainable, the minister has pledged to act.
“If I’m looking at evidence that Dr McCarthy comes back with – that says there is no way in any sense that this could be undertaken – then we have to listen to that,” Mr Littleproud told ABC radio on Friday.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called for a suspension in the trade while the review is completed, saying only a “monster” would think it’s fine to continue without any change.
Mr Littleproud is insisting on waiting for the evidence before acting in a calm and considered way.
“There’s a lot of operators that have done the right thing, but there are those that aren’t,” he said.
“They’re a cancer. They’re going to get weeded out, they’re going to get cut out and they’re not going to be allowed back in.”
Mr Littleproud is also open to Labor’s plan to establish an independent inspector to oversee the industry.
That proposal has the support of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council and will be the subject of a separate review into the agriculture department.
Mr Littleproud said he is also considering improved ventilation and independent observers on ships.
“This review will give us a number of options about making sure we can set the right environment for the continuation of this trade,” the minister said.
Former Liberal minister Sussan Ley wants to ban live sheep exports to the Middle East, and will introduce a private member’s bill next month.
“I respect the hurt and anger that Sussan has, but I’m going to predicate my decision on evidence, not emotion,” Mr Littleproud said.
Independent Derryn Hinch will back Ms Ley’s bill and plans to force a vote in the Senate to make Labor show its hand on the issue.
“I think we can’t make (the trade) humane but we can make it unproductive and unrewarding for the big companies,” Senator Hinch told Sky News.