Banning live export was not justified, court told

A FEDERAL minister's decision to act indiscriminately in banning all producers from exporting live cattle to Indonesia for six months in 2011 was not justified, a court has been told.

Noel Hutley SC is giving his opening address in the Federal Court in Sydney today in a class action brought by north Australian cattle producers against the then federal agriculture minister Joe Ludwig.

They claim the ban cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, but the current hearing relates to the alleged liability of the then-minister who, Mr Hutley said, may or may not give evidence.

EARLIER: THE landmark Federal Court class action over Australia's 2011 live export ban begins in Sydney today.

Cattle farmers are seeking $600 million compensation, six years after the Gillard government and then agriculture minister Joe Ludwig closed the live export trade to Indonesia after media reports of animal welfare breaches.

The former minister could give evidence. The court this year ordered Mr Ludwig to provide private emails and text messages relating to the case.

Cattle producers, led by Brett Cattle Company, will argue that Mr Ludwig abused his ministerial power. If the class action is successful, it will be the first time a case of misfeasance would be proved against a federal minister.

"What happened in 2011 cannot happen again," Northern Territory Cattlemen's ­Association chief executive Tracey Hayes said.

The Government has conceded that loss was suffered because of the shutdown.

The 1½-week long hearing before Justice Steven Rares will determine liability.