Senators oppose beef import relaxation (Update)

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 16th December 2009

Opposition Senators expressed concerms over the relaxation of Beef imports into Australia during a Senate Inquiry on Tuesday.

Liberal Senator and Farmer Bill Heffernan raised his concern that Australian domestic beef producers were held to a stricter standard than foreign imports “These fellows today are telling Australia’s beef growers that they are going to accept a lesser standard than they have imposed on Australia,” he told the Inquiry yesterday.

He also had fears that beef imports will not have sufficient traceability procedures, should an outbreak of Mad Cow Disease (BSE) occur. “They are going to let countries that don’t have full traceability import cattle into Australia.”

Government officials defended the decision as posing practically no risk to Australian consumers. “There had been a number of assessments over at least the last five years that had reviewed the science of the existing policy. That suggested that we could actually modify the policy without any increase in risk to Australian consumers and, for that matter, to animal health as well, ” said Paul Morris from the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry.

According to Morris, there is no scientific basis to continue to ban beef imports.

Morris explained the reason behind the policy shift. “There were a number of countries that were interested in sending product to Australia, including the US, Canada, Japan and the EU. That was a very important trigger.”

The Senate will hold a second hearing into beef imports early next year.

The Inquiry Transcript can be viewed here.