I gladly welcome the Rudd Government’s backflip on the importation of beef from countries with mad cow disease.

Agriculture Minister Tony Burke must be congratulated for listening to the people of Australia.

Only last Parliamentary sitting, I was thrown out of the Chamber for interjecting when the Minister for Trade defended the government’s decision to allow beef from countries with mad cow disease.
I wanted to know why the Trade Minister was defending a decision that was about protecting our health and environment, and job-creating industries.

Fortunately, the Agriculture Minister has now stepped in to defend public health and Australia’s million-dollar cattle industry.

However, we now tread with trepidation – once bitten twice shy.

Minister Burke has called for a ‘review’, leaving it up to Biosecurity Australia to undertake an import risk assessment.

This is the same mob that allowed beef in from Brazil (foot and mouth disease), grapes from California (Pearce disease), chicken meat from Asia (avian flu) – all countries have devastating infectious diseases not yet found in Australia. They have also raised the ‘acceptable’ levels of cadmium (a deadly poison) in potatoes so they ‘could come in from Texas and China'.

We don’t share a border with any other country; we have a thriving cattle industry that can supply Australia with prime quality beef. We don’t need to take these risks.

This backflip is the first step, however we need a total about-turn – ‘free trade’ should never come before the health of Australians and the protection of our industry and our environment.

This ban must be reinstated for the good of all Australians.

Tags: BSE, Beef, FreeTrade

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Matt the ones you list above all represent their own slice of the wonderfull" beef" Industry. I concede that apathy or fear of attracting attention or maybe a state of resignation- whatever it is, remains the number one problem.There are supposedly 200000 levy payers and while there is such a small number contributing- these above mentioned think they have a licence to do whatever they want!

The Levy and Govt matching funds give them a $160 Million party every year. Big salaries , big ego's- no results that I can think of. That has been the norm now for 15 years and for the levy payers -things have never been leaner.

This is why the silent majority who have had a gutful don't care too much about science games- all they know is that we have paid and suffered for this "clean,green,perceptionand traceback B.S." and we aren't too keen on finding the Cattle Council being duped by a nieive Govt answering the call of the multi-national lobbiests.

If they had had their way -we the cattlemen of Aust would look the biggest dills on the planet.It is not over yet and if "Tracability" is going to be the bargaining chip- our Federal Govt can pay us the Breeder $10 per head to Tag our national Herd.

Cattle Council is extremely unrepresentative in numbers.It could be a social club at present -not the sharp worldy people from the school of life that are needed.
fire ants and american whitefly, that decimated our vegie and flower growers, spring to mind.
Aquis is underfunded and understaffed, has been for years.
Americas is ran ragged also, so contaminated product being re labelled and onsold is rarely checked either

Bob K, glad you joined:-)
You will see apart from Lee, matt and janet, and maybe? 2 others the Vast membership numbers here are NOT happy at the importation idea. apart from BSE I have posted info on Illness and standards in the american meat processing that are truly well Under Par, compared to australias.(scared to death post by Lee Mc Nicholl)

I notice that there wasnt any comment when the American fish grower was complaining of poor and toxic imports and saying THEIR market should BAN imports:-)
same issues as ours. ditto the US Car makers and producers, ALL want local over imports. sure says something...pity the Trade crowd dont listen.
Globalisation is a Dirty word, for every man Jack of us Except the Massive money spinners and the Market Banksters that managed to Globalise us all into Massive DEBT.
outta be a warning in that!
Laurel, if ALL want local over imports, then imported cars would not sell. Prawns imported from Thailand would not still be on the deli shelf at Coles. I'm not opposed to labeling and letting the consumer decide. I trust consumers to vote with their dollars, and as a producer, I will respond to that voting.

cheap imports allow the delusion that people can , Wow! be so lucky, they can afford the odd kilo of cheap (toxic) imported prawns for the backyard wedding, BBQ whatever,
an illusion of"betterment" if mimicry of the rich? on TV and society pages is worh copying?
a cheap imported motor, with a lower fuel use
that also happens to wear out a lot sooner, so in reality costs MORE.
more debt to renew, more maintenance while going, and more mining and paint and plastic to replace also? not so economical at all.
my 1964 wolseley used the same fuel or LESS than a 30 year newer ford wagon!
a motor from then lasted 25+ years. the ford did less than 20, a lot less, round 15.
I,d rather buy One pair of good well made leather shoes than 5 pairs of plastic ones.
Quality over quantity.
Yeah I know I am strange, I am NOT brainwashed to consume or want "toys" or to eat regardless of hunger, I only replace things when they are beyond repair, not because the one I have is old fashioned, or on a whim.
I am amazed people will pay for tasteless food products ,rather than make 4x as much with taste and more nutrition too.
knowing how to cook from scratch and planning a weeks menu is too hard?
shops are open 7 days and late, and people still havent time to shop properly, and cook?

The ILLUSION of 1st world progress relies on the assumption people have that they are doing well, via what they OWN, what credit they can manage to sign their lives away for,
not in truth ,on quality of life and real input to the world and society,
when you add that detail in we and america also, have a lot of? Nothing much.
education slipping, jobs for any age are scarce and shrinking, debt grows, and people dont seem to be waking up to it fast enough.
everyone wants a desk job, and good pay, it seems.
at the end of the day a labourer can see the product his labour achieves, and gain some sense or worth and a job well done.
you work as a clerk of sales person..at the end of the day you produced? nothing to show, you drop dead and theres NO trace of you existance, or your acheivement at all. a cypher on a wage sheet.

have a trade or a skill and you are hard to replace and leave a lasting evidence, albeit a neatly dug trench or repaired wll or whatever.
I see the abscence of pride and tangible results as a part of the illness society in general seems to be experiencing.
Chasing the Media illusion of new new new, is not a good thing, and all the cheap food our Farmers say is overproduced and undervalued, makes me think importing anything we CAN produce make or do is sheer insanity.
did you read my post re USA wanting OUT of nafta? and the WTO, seems I am not alone Janet.
listen to their views on imports! and its the usa..masters of exporting to those who neither Want OR need, american products.
It's not the cars that kill, it's the idiots that drive them.

As for banning beef imports, it should be right accross the board, not just from BSE affected countries, we have no need for imported beef as we produce enough for ourselves, Countries like America only buy so much of our beef because it's a good product and cost effective, if the currency exchange rate was to reverse, they would buy 2/8's of buggar all of our beef.

This "free trade & level playing field" garbage has to stop also, Australia is the only one on that field, the rest of them are still paying big direct subsities to their farmers, and I don't mean a bit of drought relief.
Welcome to Agmates. I have admired your guts, perserverance and determination for many years and just wish we had more politicians in this great country cast from the same sort of mould as you and Barnaby.

Opinions are certainly divided over the issue of food imports, inc meat from BSE affected countries. I think there are probably a lot of people out there who, like me, normally choose to just sit quietly out there in the background,doing their best to follow the discussions, trying to stay "up to date" and be well read and well informed, but never posting anything. Lots of us just dont feel confident enough to go public with our thoughts, so lets hope that isnt seen as agreeing with a louder, well spoken and articulate few who post profusely on various forums.
I am as red-necked and right wing as the best of em, but as someone who was involved as a meat exporter for almost 15 years, the views posted by some along the lines of "NO IMPORTS - NONE - NEVER" are really scarey to me.
Firstly let me state that I am also completely against the import of any red meat into this country.
But we have to be smart enough to "do it right". We have to craft a sensible genuine argument based on traceability and risk assessment and just keep pounding those very valid points.
I just dont get it with some members seemingly posting the view that we can afford to just tell the US to go to buggery with their meat , at all and any cost.
The Australian beef industry would be dead in the water within a matter of months if the US closed its borders to our red meat, because their market literally CARRIES the Australian red beef industry.
One quarter of all of the kilos of beef that we produce goes into that market. 25 bloody percent ....and most of it are the lowest grade cuts and trimmings that end up as hamburger mince....which is where it belongs.
We need the US market to survive, but they sure as hell dont HAVE to have us.
We normally only supply 2-3% of the total US beef imports, so reality is that if Australia vanished off the globe without a trace, they would even know (in supply terms) that we were gone !! And we really shouldnt even consider trying to convince anyone that they (the US) would struggle to replace our product, because the reality is that they can get that 2-3% in an instant from just about anywhere they wanted to.
I was a typical (I think) farmer for many years, always begrudging the Levies that were taken/stolen from the bottom line every time we sold cattle. And like many other producers, I too thought that the AMLC, or MLA as its known these days, were just a bunch of city slicker dick heads who had good jobs that let them travel round the world promoting Aussie beef and lamb ........something that surely any clown could do because surely people were falling over themselves to get in line to buy our clean, green meat.....Werent they ???
And then by accident, in 1991, I got into the meat export business myself. Using my own money, taking my own risks etc etc. Every airfare, every hotel room bill, every Trade Fair Booth fee etc was paid for with my own money. And I was in a situation attending trade fairs all over the planet, where I was actually WORKING WITH these AMLC staffers who for years and years I had thought of as useless bastards who were surely just wasting producers money . living the high life doing something that surely anyone could do.
I can tell you that it didnt take long for the truth to become glaringly clear. The penny quickly dropped and I completely changed my attitude and became a strong defender of their global meat promtional efforts.

In my opinion, (and I am allowed to have one, because I have been there, right beside them at the coal face) these AMLC/MLA men and women have done, did do and continue to do an outstandingly good job promoting Australian red meat globally. I think they do a fabulous job and represent real value for money for Producers.

From their efforts, and the efforts of all of the Australian meat exporters over many years, we have earned our way to the current position whereby a market exists in the USA for over one quarter of all of the kg's of beef that are grown in this great country of ours.
Lets not be so naive and stupid as to just tell the Yanks to go to buggery with their own read meat, and then expect them to just keep on importing 250, 000 tonnes of OUR red meat into THEIR country.
We have to be smart enough to do it, diplomatically. We have the tools sitting their in "traceability".
We must maintain market access to the US for our own red meat or else be prepared for a catastrophic collapse of our own industry
John G well said! see usa wants out of Nafta, and the wto... I am still laughing.
Hi Tony,

You certainly are entitled to your say and opinion and you make a good case. Well done and welcome.

From a consumer point of view though I do have a problem with our ability to get the American exporters to comply with 'full life traceability'

Your said:

We have to be smart enough to do it, diplomatically. We have the tools sitting their in "traceability".
We must maintain market access to the US for our own red meat or else be prepared for a catastrophic collapse of our own industry.

I don't trust the American market exporters.

Politically, yes we are but a blip on their radar and if we disappear as you say, they would not even notice.

So therefore:

a. why should we care if they don't do FLT?
b. are there markets elsewhere? Asia is growing
c. should consumers be considered morally, apart from monetary gain?

I don't believe we should be a closed market completely. I have read with interest the other contributors to this discussion who seem to be hell bent and having this deal done regardless but they have not inspired me to think they have our well being at heart. In fact I have found some of the comments cold and heartless.

I hope we don't all appear to be rednecks, we are only consumers with an interest in what happens to our country and our industries overall not to mention our children and grandchildren and their future.

You see I see this as a moral issue as well as a monetary one.
G'day Rae.
I hope I can do a decent job of putting my thoughts down here in a semi articulate manner and not just end up sounding like a goose.

I fully appreciate the reality that this issue will be partly (or solely) a moral one for a lot of people, and if you are not also a beef producer, then of course I respect your position as a consumer to also care deeply about this matter, and to demand that you are never ever placed at risk from BSE or any other disease ......no matter wether the meat in question is domestically produced, or imported from the USA.
At the end of the day though, I guess I am a bit of a fatalist, in that I accept that "what will happen, will happen". Wherever the export of ANY item (whether it be beef, or lamb, or honey, or wheat, or coal etc etc) takes place, FROM any country and TO any other country, there are international documentation procedures that just have to be followed .......otherwise the international Customs system just breaks down and world trade ceases.
And with red meat exports, there has to be a Health Certificate to accompany every single shipment. That Health Certificate simply must be signed by a Veterinarian who, in doing so, is representing "their" country...... and that chain of responsibility at the highest level is what lets me sleep at night these days. The Vet who signs the Export paperwork at the country of Origin (in this case thats obviously the USA) simply HAS to be able to trust the system below him to be telling him the truth. Yes, the paperwork is probably generated on-line several thousand miles away by an Export Documentation clerk working on behalf of the wishful Exporter and of course the final signature comes from someone in an office somewhere else. But major international meat exporting countries like Australia and the USA have got a chain of responsibility that you cant just dismiss as "dishonest exporters driven by greed".
The processing plant or boning room will both have a Govt Veterinarian that will have to give their own OK to the paperwork in the system to allow the export to happen. And to be USDA accredited for export in the first place, they have to have genuine Quality Assurance systems in place that will have to adhere to HACCP principles.
That QA will require controls and Declarations in the entire supply chain..... from the Producer, to the Slaughterhouse, to the Boning Room , to the "value adder" if there is one involved (like a smallgoods manufacturer) to the transporter/trucking company, to the Freight Forwarder, to the Airlines involved etc etc.
Every single link in the chain is risking the entire chain if they lie, or "bend the truth" in their declarations.
I simply believe that that is a bloody big hammer hanging over the head of every step in the supply chain, and I have come to trust the system enough to be able to sleep at night.
I honestly do not want any meat whatsoever to come into Australia from the USA (or anywhere else for that matter) . But if it does have to be let in to allow continuing trade with the USA, and if it can supply lifetime traceability guarantees, then I will be able to live with that.
I dont want it here, but if at the end of the day it does come in, WITH TRACABILITY, then I will be able to live with that.

The USA has quite simply got too much to lose to be bothered in "shonking" the paperwork and telling lies on the miserable quantity of meat that is EVER likely to be exported here to Australia.
We might be the 2nd biggest Beef exporter after Brazil, but in meat terms, the US is a MASSIVE and ACTIVE exporter. They often export over 1 million tonnes of just pork..... which is more tonnage than our total Australian Beef exports. Their total meat exports in 2009 were app 2.5 million tonnes of red meat, and a staggering 3 million tonnes of poultry !! And they would seriously be placing their entire meat export industry at risk if they got caught out by ANY COUNTRY , shonking paperwork and telling lies in/on export documentation.
For a farmer/producer to lie about origin, there is always going to be someone else that knows about it. Ditto for a slaughterhouse and/or boning room....its just compounded because there will always be so many more pople that could find out about any lies told re lifetime tracability or product integrity and security and then be a "whistleblower".
You have also got to seriously look at WHY anyone would ever bother importing US meat products into Australia. What have they got that cant be produced and sourced right here in Australia , of equal or better quality ?? Seriously......... there isnt much !
So what I am saying is that there are many many links in the whole supply chain for whom this whole PRODUCT INTEGRITY thing is also very much a moral issue.
If you think about it, REALISTICALLY you are JUST AS MUCH AT RISK HERE IN AUSTRALIA of buying product that someone in the supply chain has lied about, and that "could" put you at risk.
How do you REALLY KNOW that the lamb chops, or Fillet steak, or tofu burger or lettuce that you bought yesterday were produced, handled and packaged in a manner that can guarantee that your health, or your families health, are not placed at risk ?? Seriously, how can you be certain ?? You simply cant. Unless you have grown 100% of it yourself without a single purchased input, then you just plain CANT BE CERTAIN. Literally........ how are you certain that even a certified vegetarian or organic product wasnt fertislised with untreated human or animal faeces ? Or that some little vegetable gardner didnt go and urinate or defaecate every day on the bunch of anything that you just fed to your family ?
Every single boning room worker , or vegetable packer in Australia could contaminate the product that they handle if they really wanted to. But they dont......and we continue to eat what they ALL handle.
You have to rely on the supply chain integrity. You have come to trust your suppliers, and you have personally done that because you KNOW that if they get caught out lieing and they lose your trust, then they lose everyones trust, and their business is dead in the water.
No matter whether you buy from a big supermarket chain, or a little corner shop, or a weekend market or roadside stall, the risk and principles are the same. ie What is your guarantee ??
To me, the issue of any certification or guarantees from the US authorities regarding any miniscule quantity of red meat that may ever be exported to Australia is exactly the same thing. They have far too much to lose.

Its now 2010, and I am personally way more concerned about some islamic extremist who is hell bent on destroying us sneaking in the means to infect Australian livestock with FMD or some exotic African disease than I am about someone in a US based export supply chain infecting us accidently with BSE.
I was lucky enough,(or unlucky enough, depends how you view it, I guess) to have spent a lot of time in the USA marketing Australian meats in the late 1990's. So I ate 3 meals a day there, and I never ever ....not even once..... worried about getting BSE/CJD or anything else. 300 million Americans trust their own food enough to eat it, and so did I.
And if I were to fly to the US again tomorrow, I would continue to enjoy their food without a single doubt in my mind.
But I am less comfortable about the integrity of dried figs and dates imported daily into Australia from Middle Eastern countries. I have this vision in my mind of Moh'd ibn bin bin bin or whatever his name is sending his best wishes in every carton sealed, that he just KNOWS is going to be exported to some western country where some infidel pig like me will end up eating them. Are you really certain that he didnt pee in the carton (or worse !) before he sealed it up for export ? Or will you be like me, and never eat them again , due to a perceived "high risk" ?
It definitely IS a big moral issue, this food import/export thing.
Hello Tony-very good contributions from you here. You will see my red shirted mug all over these beef topics because like you it has been my livelihood for a fair while.I will admit that I would be one of the hard core that you refer to.

This comes about because the breeder is totally ignored and manipulated by every other part of the chain. You being an exporter have control over your destiny when you sign a deal. You have insurances and those vets to sign off and I agree99.9% of people and countries operate with integrity and goodwill. Sleeping at night should not be such a drama.

You do balance the debate and I agree with your rationale. I have been involved with the Aust Beef Assoc for several years as they are the only ones to stick up for producers interests. Naturally we are all individuals and I don't agree on all of their concerns- but nearly all. My two issues are-

1 The "LPA" that we sign gives a third party( gives MLA) legal powers over our animals which once off our places can leave us liable from here to kingdom come. This enrages some of our group but me I think that there are more important matters to deal with. As you point out everyone along the chain has to be responsible and sign off somewhere.

2 The Mandatory NLIS has been a huge "Perception Only" white elephant- we all knew it would be and were vilified and ignored for years. I have spent many thousands of $ on the rediculous nonsense.We are the only ones in the world with it because it is too expensive and noone needs or wants it to trade. Where I diverged with my fellow Directors on the board was I wanted a motion to redress this unfair cost to the breeders only for the so called good of the WHOLE beef chain. The motion didn't get up because it appeared to be aiding the NLIS and the feeling was it should be scrapped.(if only)

That on the first transfer off PIC the owner gets a $10 per head Rebate from the Levies Collection Unit.
This could be done every three months aka the BAS at the ATO
This would ensure the first transfer was accurate to ensure payment thus improving over time the 34% of cattle on the Database that have lost Lifetime Tracability.

It will be an irony -if as you suggest this IRA demands equivalency as in NLIS in the importing country.This will be the new Trade barrier and I could live with that so long as my motion was also written in to the Industry award.If it isn't we will be two time loosers!

Alan- you make fair points too and my bitch at MLA public service is mainly due to the accesses ie Av salary out of 223 staff was $118K when I looked a couple of years ago!
Tony well done. Two thought provoking well balanced posts. You have broken through the fear, emotion and ignorance and I commend you for that.

I too was ignorant of the value I was getting from my levy dollar until about eight years ago when I was talked into throwing my hat in for an Agforce cattle board position. At the time I knew little of industry structures however I knew that it was important that genuine viable beef producers had a say in how their money was being spent. People in the bush were telling me that MLA simply were a bunch of people who lived in Sydney and had long lunches on a credit card funded by us.

I went on to sit on Cattle Council for six years. My responsibilities included being part of the CCA review of MLA in 2003 and three years on marketing taskforces overseeing MLA's marketing expenditure. There were plenty of blues, enlightenment on both sides, and changes made where appropriate. By and large I found effective and very hard working people with a passion for the Australian beef industry that would rival mine.

I hope your posts encourage others who have been watching and scratching their heads with bewilderment, to contribute some more factual posts based on experience and true understanding!

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