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Senate Estimates: Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee (MLA)

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Lee Rhiannon 19 Nov 2013


Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
Meat & Livestock Australia


Senator RHIANNON: Mr Hansen, did the MLA Middle Eastern representative, David Beatty, inform MLA management when he became aware that thousands of Australian sheep exported by Livestock Shipping Services had been illegally transported into Lebanon from Jordan earlier this year?

Mr Hansen : Thank you for the question. Before I pass over to Mr Barnard, I would say that, if any of our consultant staff in the field see what they believe could potentially be a breach of ESCAS—bearing in mind that at the end of the day it will be the department that determines whether a breach has occurred—they follow the instruction that we received from the minister, which is to ensure immediate reporting to the supply chain involved and documentation of that reporting. I might just hand to Peter Barnard with regard to a specific question on process.

Dr Barnard : To my knowledge we had no definite knowledge that sheep were being leaked from Jordan to Lebanon.

Senator RHIANNON: So David Beatty did not inform the MLA management when he became aware that thousands of Australian sheep? We can maybe break it up. You had no information from David Beatty about the sheep in Lebanon?

Dr Barnard : David Beatty, to my knowledge, definitely—there was no conclusive information from David that leakage was occurring.

Senator RHIANNON: So when you use the term 'leakage occurring,' you mean sheep going from Jordan to Lebanon?

Dr Barnard : That is right.

Senator RHIANNON: So Mr Beatty did not supply you with any information about leakage?

Dr Barnard : He did not supply us with any conclusive information that leakage had occurred from Jordan to Lebanon.

Senator RHIANNON: Are you satisfied with that answer, Mr Hansen?

Mr Hansen : I certainly have not seen any evidence.

Senator RHIANNON: So you are stating that David Beatty did not tell you or that you are not aware of what he saw?

Dr Barnard : I can only answer this question honestly and I can only say that, to my knowledge and memory, David Beatty supplied no information of a conclusive nature that leakage had occurred from Jordan to Lebanon.

Senator RHIANNON: Can we just unpackage that. You said 'to your memory'; does that mean you need to take that on notice so you can check?

Dr Barnard : I am happy to take it on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: And you also used the term 'conclusive evidence.' Did David Beatty provide you with any evidence, conclusive or not conclusive, with regard to what you call leakage?

Dr Barnard : It is an area where rumours constantly circulate and we are privy to some of those rumours, but we act on evidence.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, and evidence comes in many different forms, so I ask again: did Mr Beatty provide you with any information, conclusive or not conclusive, with regard to what you call leakage?

Senator Abetz: If I might say, there is a bit of cross-purpose here. Information and evidence might be two different things. Information might be advice of a rumour, but that of itself is not evidence. The terms have been used and I am just trying to clarify.

CHAIR: I would just like to clarify for the committee: Senator, are you alleging that you do have evidence to that effect?

Senator RHIANNON: I am just asking my questions.

CHAIR: You are waiting for the drop-dead question because if the drop-dead question is: here, I've got the evidence, please do it, because we are going to run out of time and I do not want to do that.

Senator RHIANNON: I would just like to be able to proceed and I would just like to ask that question again.

CHAIR: You are pretending to be John Faulkner here!

Senator RHIANNON: The diversions do not work, Chair. I would like to put that question again: do you have conclusive or non-conclusive evidence, or conclusive or non-conclusive information with regard to the movement of Australian sheep from Jordan to Lebanon?

Dr Barnard : I think I have answered the question adequately, Senator. I am happy to take it on notice and supply you with further information, but I have in all honesty and to the best of my ability answered the question honestly.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Was any MLA employee aware of the illegal trucking of Australian sheep into Lebanon?

Senator Abetz: Have we established that occurred?

Senator RHIANNON: No.

Dr Barnard : The senator asked if we had established that that had occurred. The question implied that leakage had occurred from Jordan to Lebanon.

Senator RHIANNON: Are you saying that it may not have occurred or it did not occur?

Dr Barnard : I am saying that we have, to my knowledge, no compelling evidence to suggest that it occurred.

CHAIR: If you did have evidence, would that be a criminal offence?

Dr Barnard : No.

CHAIR: Just skulduggery.

Senator RHIANNON: Has Livestock Shipping Services ever impressed on MLA that it would be unwise to report breaches of ESCAS?

Mr Hansen : Certainly not to my knowledge.

Senator RHIANNON: Have Australian export companies Emanuel or International Livestock Exports, operated by Graeme Daws and Michael Stanton, ever asked MLA to stay out of Kuwait?

Mr Hansen : Again, not to my knowledge, Senator.

Senator RHIANNON: Did MLA instruct consultant Blythe Danner to depart Kuwait the day prior to the Festival of Sacrifice commencing last month?

Dr Barnard : Could you repeat the name of the consultant?

Senator RHIANNON: Blythe Danner.

Dr Barnard : Blythe?

Senator RHIANNON: Did MLA instruct consultant Blythe Danner to depart Kuwait the day prior to the Festival of Sacrifice?

Mr Galvin : Blythe was, as she was a year before, allocated to Qatar, where she has done a magnificent job. I was there with her on both occasions. She is a credit to young Australian rural people. I think she won the Cattle Council Young Australian of the Year. She was tasked to Qatar.

Senator RHIANNON: So are you are saying that she had nothing to do with Kuwait?

Mr Galvin : I do not know. I was only in Qatar. I was with her in Qatar.

Senator RHIANNON: Do I need to put it on notice, if you are not aware if she is working in Kuwait.

Mr Hansen : We will take it on notice. Blythe works regularly across the Middle East. We can look at where she was at what stage.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you add this to take on notice, please? If she was removed, why would you remove a consultant the day prior to when animals were at greatest risk?

Dr Barnard : It was a matter of assigning resources across a region, Senator. We had resources assigned to Kuwait, resources assigned to Qatar, resources assigned to other areas of the Middle East during Eid. My LiveCorp colleagues were across there during Eid, so could provide you with details of the assignment of those resources.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take on notice: in these festivals, what MLA and LiveCorp staff are located where and for what periods—just for this year? And then a Turkey question: did the MLA receive a letter from an MLA consultant in 2012 refusing to work in Turkey due to the corruption of the ESCAS auditing system by parties connected to Livestock Shipping Services or their parent company Hijazi and Ghosheh?

Mr Hansen : Certainly not that I have seen. We can take that on notice as well.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.


Senator RHIANNON: Are countries that are importing kangaroo meat informed that this meat is not tested for diseases like toxoplasmosis, as has been confirmed in previous estimates?

Mr Glyde : In terms of meeting importing country requirements, the general rule is that we meet what those countries require. I am not sure whether or not Mr Read can add any more to that question. But, generally speaking, we respond to the requirements of those importing countries.

Mr Read : That is correct. That is exactly what happens: the importing countries prescribe what the certification requirements are and then we ensure those requirements for that certification are met.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say the countries set out what they require, do you mean that they say, 'We want you tell us whether these diseases could be prevalent in these imports'? How detailed do they get?

Mr Read : They get down to total viable count, microbe levels, E. coli, salmonella, Trichinella testing and the prevalence of those diseases.

Senator RHIANNON: So it is very detailed.

Mr Read : So they are very prescriptive.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. I am asking this question because I have noticed that the food industry is marketing kangaroo meat as a gourmet meat that can be served rare, such as in tartare. Let us start with Russia, where I know there have been problems. What do they require Australia to disclose with regard to diseases and microbial counts?

Mr Read : I cannot respond in detail, but they certainly are very prescriptive, as I just mentioned earlier, around total viable count in terms of coliforms on carcasses at entry and a range of other prescriptive settings in terms of the temperature control of the product.

Senator RHIANNON: Sorry, at the beginning did you say they are not or they are? I did not hear the first bit.

Mr Read : They are. On the question you are asking, the product that goes to Russia is a manufacturing protein. The sort of product that you are talking about there is one that would go more to Europe. Again, they are also very prescriptive. If you are serving that sort of product rare, of particular concern is Trichinella. That disease is absent in this country, but we are still required to do the testing for that.

Senator RHIANNON: So if you say for manufacturing purposes, it means that it is used in some form as processed food products? Are you saying that therefore it is treated more intensely and is not of a rare nature?

Mr Read : Sorry, there are two sides to this: one is what they require of us; two is the food standards that apply in the country in which the product is further processed or cooked or consumed. Depending on the country those requirements will be regulated there, and I just do not have that detail here.

Senator RHIANNON: I appreciate that. That is what I am trying to separate out here, because when you answered the earlier question you said that the kangaroo meat going into Russia is used for manufacturing. Was there an assumption in your answer that therefore they are not asking the detailed questions about the disease levels that could possibly be associated with that meat?

Mr Read : I actually said the manufacturing protein going to Russia, and the reason I said that is Russia treats all meat as a protein, if you like, not particularly as species-specific, and they have a range of very detailed descriptive testing requirements for the market.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take on notice and supply us with the tests that Russia and China require—for what diseases and what the actual tests are?

Mr Read : We do not yet have a certificate agreed with China so I cannot respond to that question, but we can do it for Russia.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the current status of negotiations and lobbying to extend the trade with China, please?

Mr Read : We are currently meeting with technical officials in China to progress some remaining points prior to hopefully commencing the trade into China.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the time line on your hopes to commence the trade?

Mr Read : It is very difficult to foreshadow a time line with China but—

Senator RHIANNON: What are you working towards? What is the—

Mr Read : I would hope months. That would be my sense, but that is about as specific as I can be.

Senator RHIANNON: What amount of public funding has gone into supporting this process?

Mr Read : I will have to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. What is the involvement of the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia?

Mr Read : They are extensively involved, and consulted with, in this process.

Senator RHIANNON: As well as being consulted, are they part of the delegations to China to negotiate this?

Mr Read : The Chinese meetings are government to government but they are thoroughly involved in the preparation for those meetings and post-meeting assessments.

Senator RHIANNON: I did just ask about the delegations, which can be taken as wider than just who goes to the meetings. Have representatives of that body accompanied delegations to China for these negotiations?

Mr Read : They have not accompanied me but I will take it on notice and check whether they have been with other trade delegations.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take on notice whether the government has paid for any of the KIAA involvement in these overseas delegations?

Mr Read : Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. What is the current status of the Russian market regarding the discovery of incorrectly labelled kangaroo meat imported there and concerns about contamination of kangaroo meat?

Mr Reed : The current status is we have access for kangaroo meat into Russia from one plant and that is—

Senator RHIANNON: Sorry, from one—

Mr Read : Plant, and that issue you raise has been addressed with the Russian authorities.

Senator RHIANNON: So when you say addressed, do you mean they are happy with the status quo or that you have changed the problem?

Mr Read : We have put in corrective procedures to deal with the issue.

Senator RHIANNON: And what are they, please?

Mr Read : Different box labelling; the size of boxes; the controls at the cold store where the issue occurred.

Senator RHIANNON: Has Russia or any other country raised concerns about zoonotic diseases that are known to be rife in kangaroo populations?

Mr Read : No.

Senator RHIANNON: So are there any concerns raised about toxoplasmosis generally?

Mr Read : Not to my recollection.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you need to take that on notice so you can check?

Mr Read : Sure.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

CHAIR: Two to go.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you outline what other overseas markets are being considered for an expansion of the kangaroo trade?

Mr Read : Predominantly the Asian region; India and the Philippines are two that have been mentioned.

Senator RHIANNON: Any other countries?

Mr Read : In terms of expansion, I think you said?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes.

Mr Read : It has been agreed with Peru. There are about 30 countries that kangaroo meat is currently eligible to access, and we have about another three countries that we are in dialogue with.

Senator RHIANNON: So you have another three countries you are negotiating with?

Mr Read : Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: So two are India and the Philippines?

Mr Read : The foreshadowed ones are India and the Philippines, and South America—I say that generally because we are still raising it with other countries in South America. We can take that on notice and provide you with a list of countries where presently kangaroo meat can be exported to.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the involvement of the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia with these negotiations?

Mr Read : As before, they are consulted as part of those negotiations. They are kept informed of the status of access into those markets.

Senator RHIANNON: Again, have they been part of delegations to those countries for these negotiations?

Mr Read : I will take that on notice, to be absolutely sure.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you take on notice whether they have participated and, if they have, how much that has cost.

Mr Read : Yes.

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