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Estimates: Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee (kangaroo industry)

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 9 Feb 2016

Lee questions representatives of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on aspects of the Kangaroo Project meat export market analysis including its completion date and its release to the public.   Government funding for the kangaroo market access project also comes under scrutiny as Lee questions  the government's involvement in lobbying for California to overturn its ban on kangaroo imports.

Senator RHIANNON: I just want to ask you about the Kangaroo Project meat export market analysis. I noticed that on the website it states that it was due to complete on Friday 10 July; is that correct?

Mr Burns: Correct.

Senator RHIANNON: So it is finished?

Mr Burns: Yes, all of our current Kangaroo Projects are technically finished and we do not have any live Kangaroo Projects currently.

Senator RHIANNON: I notice there is no report on the website. Will it be placed on the website?

Mr Burns: That is going to be a call, I think, for the department, Senator, because the departments were the ones that requested it. I think we are talking about the same project. The department requested that we do that. I think we provided those projects to the department, which was the agency that really requested some of that work in conjunction with industry, so we have provided the draft, I think from memory, to the department.

Senator RHIANNON: When did you provide the report to the department? Also, while you are looking at that, is this the process with all of these projects-that you only provide the report publicly if the department agrees?

Mr Burns: We provided that project in July 2015. It would depend on how the project is funded. There have been some projects, particularly in the kangaroo area, where the department has asked us to undertake those projects and has provided some funding for those. Where we have a funding deed with the department, we are required to provide the draft or the project outcome to the department and it is their-they have, if you like, a say in whether or not it gets released publicly.

Senator RHIANNON: Mr Quinlivan, can I ask about the report, please, and when it will be made public.

Mr Quinlivan: I do not have that personal information, Senator. Our Exports Division, which is on later, would be able to answer that question.

Senator RHIANNON: Maybe you can help, Chair. Which section are we referring to so that I can make sure that I turn up at the right time?

CHAIR: It is much later. We cannot predict it.

Senator RHIANNON: I am not asking for the time-just the section.

Mr Quinlivan: It is outcome 2, item 17, on the current schedule.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay. So you are suggesting that all questions are directed to them with regard to releasing the report?

Mr Quinlivan: Yes, that would be sensible.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

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Senator RHIANNON: Which Californian lawmakers are Australian government representatives currently speaking or working with to lift the Californian ban on imported kangaroo parts?

Ms Bie: The Australian government is talking with a range of Californian government lawmakers on the matter of kangaroo market access to California.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you provide details of the government lawmakers you are working with.

Ms Bie: There are many meetings with many of them on a whole range of market access issues. I could not provide details of specific people.

Senator RHIANNON: Even the leading people that you would be meeting with? There would be some key people. Can you provide those details please.

Ms Bie: The representative in Market that has been leading on the meetings, including representations that have happened with Ambassador Beazley and ministers Turnbull and Hunt, met with Governor Brown and senators Lara and de Leon, but they are just a couple amongst a range of senators.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take it on notice and provided the list please.

Ms Bie: We could take the question on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: A complaint has been filed with the Californian Fair Political Practices Commission that Australia may have acted illegally because it did not declare financial payments or register as a lobbyist employer when it provided $143,000 to the KIAA to help pay the Californian legal firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to lobby Californian lobby makers against the ban. I understand the department advised the Australian government that it is trying to 'determine the most appropriate resolution to the allegations in the complaint'. Can you describe what you mean by 'the most appropriate resolution'?

Ms Bie: The resolution will be up to the Fair Political Practices Commission. I could not pre-empt their decision. There have been a number of-

Senator RHIANNON: No, this is about your tactics, about the government's tactics. This is the department advising the Australian government: it-the department-is trying to determine the most appropriate resolution. I am trying to understand what you mean by 'the most appropriate resolution'. Is it to overturn the ban? Is there some middle course? What are your plans?

Ms Bie: The appropriate resolution of the matter before the Fair Political Practices Commission, is that what you refer to? There have been a number of meetings in relation to that and interactions where they have asked for the process that we have been following. They asked about the grant. We have provided factual information and then the Fair Political Practices Commission determines the appropriate outcome. Perhaps I am misinterpreting your question.

Senator RHIANNON: That is useful. I am trying to understand the process and who you have been meeting with. Can you provide details of who you have met with?

Ms Bie: I would have to take that on notice. I have not had the meetings myself.

Senator RHIANNON: And also who the Australian personnel at those meetings were?

Ms Bie: Yes, I can take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: The Australian government has tried to influence an outcome, here.

Ms Bie: No. The Fair Political Practices Commission requested meetings. I understand that that is a normal part of the process when they are clarifying an allegation put before them. We have simply met with them and answered questions.

Senator RHIANNON: The CEO of the KIAA, Mr John Kelly, was funded $236,664 from 2008 to 2011 for an RIRDC project called Research to assist market development for kangaroo products in California and New York. The department has advised that the majority of this funding, just over $200,000, was used by the project provider, Mr Kelly, to 'engage a firm of US consultants to develop and implement a process to inform Californian and New York legislators in 2009 and 2010 as to the regulation and sustainability of the kangaroo industry.' Who were the firm of US consultants referred to there?

Ms Bie: In 2009?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, and 2010.

Ms Bie: I am not familiar with that particular report. I will have to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: There is nobody here who has this information? It is an issue we have been dealing with at estimates. It is a lot of money that has been allocated to one aspect of an industry that is not huge.

Ms Bie: I have experience of the grant that is $143,000, but not that particular report that you are referring to.

Senator RHIANNON: You do not know who the consultants are. You will take it on notice?

Ms Bie: I will.

Senator RHIANNON: I understand that $811,000 was provided to fund the kangaroo market access project, where the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is partnering with KIAA, the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia-do you have some information about that?

Ms Bie: Is that the recent announcement?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, one of the initiatives to assist with market access for kangaroo meat and meat products to Asian markets.

Ms Bie: My colleague, Ann McDonald, will be able to help you on that.

Senator RHIANNON: How much of this money is going to the department and how much to KIAA to expend?

Mrs McDonald: We are still working through exactly what that project will entail, so I have not got that information yet.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you mean the project has not started or that it has started and you are not able to report on it yet?

Mrs McDonald: The project has started and, yes, we are not able to report on it yet. There will be a number of activities that will happen within Australia and in other markets to promote the industry but they have not been finalised yet.

Senator RHIANNON: You say there are a number of activities, I think it is a fair assumption that you know what those activities are?

Mrs McDonald: Yes, I know some of them. There is money that has been provided to the kangaroo industry to develop an export market strategic plan and that is $45,000 over 18 months. There is also money that has been provided to engage a presence in China to represent the industry.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that like a salary for somebody?

Mrs McDonald: Yes and no. It is pretty much just a telephone answering service. The China-Australia Chamber of Commerce office in Beijing will be helping out with that one.

Senator RHIANNON: How much will be allocated to that?

Mrs McDonald: Off the top of my head, I think that is about $30,000.

Senator RHIANNON: So $30,000 to the China-Australia Chamber of Commerce in China-

Mrs McDonald: To provide a presence there. They will be taking inquiries, bringing information back to the kangaroo industry back here in Australia and then providing information back to the inquirers.

Senator RHIANNON: What are the other activities?

Mrs McDonald: There will be a DVD that the industry will produce. It is a commercial DVD that will complement the DVD that was produced some years ago on the regulations underpinning kangaroo processing. The kangaroo industry is in the process of finalising arrangements for that. I have not got the exact amount that will cost as yet.

Senator RHIANNON: What about other activities?

Mrs McDonald: We are looking at events. The project is to assist with market access to key Asian markets, so obviously China is one of the countries that we are looking at and we are at looking at activities over there. We might be, for example, holding information sessions with animal welfare bodies over there to give them some information about this industry: how it works and the harvesting and so on, the sustainability, and how animal welfare matters are addressed through that. We already have access to Japan and Korea, so we will be looking at activities to expand access into those markets and increase our market share. There are a number of activities around public relations both here in Australia and in those overseas key Asian markets.

Senator RHIANNON: How much has been allocated for those events?

Mrs McDonald: For the events themselves, the expanding market access into-

Senator RHIANNON: You mentioned events in three countries: China, Japan and Korea-how much have you allocated for that overall?

Mrs McDonald: We have not worked out the details of exactly what those events will be at this stage. We have some approximate budget figures, but until we have actually looked at contracts and looked at arrangements there then it is difficult to say exactly how much they will cost. There are trade fairs, for example, that we are looking at targeting, but until they get a little bit closer and we work out how much it is going to cost to participate then it is hard to say exactly what that will cost. The budget figure that we have come up with is about $811,000 at this stage.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for providing those details. Could you please take it on notice to provide details of any other activities and also how much each one will cost, even if it is approximate at this stage?

Mrs McDonald: Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: Going back to the start of the question, I was trying to understand how much of this allocation of a bit over $800,000 is for the department and how much is for KIAA.

Mrs McDonald: I will take that on notice as well.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the role of KIAA's CEO, John Kelly, in this project?

Mrs McDonald: He is assisting as the project manager, so he is developing the project plan. He has also been involved in contracting the presence for the KIAA in China and he will have various other roles in trade fairs that we might go to. He also has a role in the development of the commercial DVD that I mentioned earlier, so he has quite an important role in a number of those activities.

Senator RHIANNON: Will they also involve paying lobbying consultants as part of this work?

Mrs McDonald: At this stage we are not engaging lobbying consultants at all.

Senator RHIANNON: Are there consultants who assist on any of the work, like identifying events and how they should be run?

Mrs McDonald: That is something that I would expect the Australian Chamber of Commerce would be able to assist with. That is one of the services they can provide.

Senator RHIANNON: So you are not expecting to do any market research to assist with this?

Mrs McDonald: Austrade can help out with that. I think we already talked earlier about the RIRDC report that provided some information to the industry about the sorts of opportunities that exist in the markets that they have already.

CHAIR: How much longer will you be? You are double.

Senator RHIANNON: Can I come back? How are you running?

CHAIR: We want to go home tonight.

Senator EDWARDS: How many kangaroos are there in Australia?

Senator RHIANNON: Do you want that broken down by species?

Senator EDWARDS: Two hundred-and-how-many million?

CHAIR: Can you put them on notice?

Ms Bie: I think there were 44 million in 2014, but I might have to take that on notice.

Senator EDWARDS: But it has been a better season since then.

Ms Bie: In 2014 there were 49.3 million.

Senator WILLIAMS: How long were the Aborigines eating them for?

Ms Bie: Sorry?

Senator WILLIAMS: It does not matter.

Senator EDWARDS: That is an estimate, I take it.

Ms Bie: It is an estimate.

CHAIR: Can you put some on notice, Senator Rhiannon, because we want to go home tonight.

Senator RHIANNON: I know, and so do I, but I have been waiting all day. Are you doing a round and we can come back again? I want to be fair to other people as well.

CHAIR: No, try and clean it up.

Senator RHIANNON: I understand that five agricultural counsellors are to be posted in Vietnam, Malaysia, the Middle East, China and Thailand over four years. Is this the projectable cost: $16.3 million?

Mr Smalley: Yes, that is the case.

Senator RHIANNON: Was the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia, or any other kangaroo industry representative, consulted as to its preference for the placement of these new counsellor positions?

Mr Smalley: I am sorry-I cannot recall specifically whether the kangaroo industry was among the group of many industries that were consulted, nor what views they might have expressed.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take it on notice, please?

Mr Smalley: I certainly can.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you describe what sort of counselling these positions are going to be providing? I gather it is about marketing and influencing decision-makers in these countries. Is that their purpose?

Mr Smalley: Not quite. We already have a network of counsellors. The counsellors' functions are about gaining and maintaining, or improving, market access for Australian agricultural products. They also resolve technical market access issues that arise from time to time.

CHAIR: Any facilitation fees?

Mr Smalley: No, they do not have facilitation fees.

CHAIR: Bullshit they don't! The place is driven by them.

Mr Smalley: They also seek to work in multilateral organisations and in the international commodity group organisations to work on the development of international standards. They also seek, through those organisations, to remove distortions to international trade. They build relationships with our trading partners and they facilitate technical assistance through capacity building and through agricultural cooperation. That is the nature of the functions that they undertake. It is not marketing per se; it is more about our technical market access issues.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for setting that out. I want to move on to the issue of plans to export wallaby skins from Tasmania. Mr John Kelly, I understand, has applied to export 60,000 Bennett's wallaby skins per annum from Tasmania. What overseas market-

CHAIR: Wallaby skins?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. What overseas markets are being targeted for these wallaby skins?

Mrs McDonald: I am not aware of that proposal, but we do export wallaby and kangaroo skins to a number of markets overseas. Because they are a non-prescribed good, the department does not become involved unless the importing country requires a certificate from the department attesting to the health status or similar of that particular commodity. He could be targeting a number of countries.

Senator RHIANNON: But your work would not intersect with that-is that what you are saying? There would be no need for you to have an awareness of that or to get involved?

Mrs McDonald: That is correct-unless the importing country that he was targeting requires government certification to accompany that consignment.

Senator RHIANNON: Considering Mr Kelly received substantial government funding as a consultant to grow kangaroo markets, where do conflict of interest questions stand given the Australian governments continuing and substantial financial support for Mr Kelly's efforts to reopen the Californian market, and particularly considering how there are now legal complaints about how that work has been undertaken? How are you handling this apparent conflict of interests?

CHAIR: Do you want to take that on notice?

Senator RHIANNON: It is a useful question for all of us to hear the answer to.

Ms Bie: The grants that I have been involved with are not personally paid to Mr John Kelly. Rather they are paid to the Kangaroo Industry Association. Mr Kelly may be involved in signing on behalf of the broader industry, but the association is made up of a number of members. Our interaction on the work-the $800,000 projects that you have been talking about-is with the KIAA and broader industry groups.

Senator RHIANNON: Is there anybody at that association, apart from Mr Kelly, whom you work with?

Mrs McDonald: Yes, there are several other people in the KIAA who are quite active in that association.

Senator RHIANNON: Who are they?

Mrs McDonald: There are the principals at Macro. There are also the principals at Wulkuraka, which is another kangaroo export establishment in Brisbane. There is also another establishment, Southern Game Meats, who are also very active.

Senator RHIANNON: Is it still the case that there are only four meat exporters involved in the kangaroo export trade?

Mrs McDonald: Right now there are five operating export registered game meat establishments that produce meat for human consumption for export.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you provide the five names? I only have four.

Mrs McDonald: I will take that on notice and provide it to you if I am able to.

 

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