Letter – Political fortitude needed on BJD

John Gunthorpe, BJD Action Group, 03/12/2014

If the quarantine notices issued two years ago to over 200 properties arising from the Rockley Brahman Stud, Hollins Bay and Sarina bison strain bovine Johne’s disease (BJD) were illegal, then compensation will be payable to the owners of these properties for costs and losses incurred during the period of quarantine.

Now whether this is correct will depend on Chief Justice Carmody’s judgement and the ability of other property owners to rely on that judgement to determine the legality of the notices issued by the Chief Veterinary Officer or Chief Inspector to them.

The regulatory changes rushed through last week to counter the judgement are not retrospective and therefore it would seem safe to assume that notices issued to properties suspected of BJD where bison strain caused the
infection should be compensated from the date of issue of the illegal notices to 28th November 2014 or until such time as the property was released from quarantine.

It was disappointing to read the Queensland Government Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Dr John McVeigh’s media release last Friday.

He still argues that the reason his department are inflicting all this pain on the industry is “… to maintain this (sic) status which underpins our access to international markets.”

Now if he refers to beef, offal or by-products from the slaughter of cattle then he is poorly advised.

All the countries to which we sell these products are BJD endemic including the USA, Japan, China and the EC. The World Trade Organisation agreement on non-tariff barriers restricts the use of disease as a trade barrier if it is also present in the importing country.

On the other hand if the minister is referring to the trade of live animals, then Indonesia requires that the vendor of the stock has not had a clinical case of Johne’s disease on his property for the past 5 years. This is the only Johne’s disease requirement for the live export of cattle to Indonesia.

As far as we are aware there are only 3 Queensland properties that would not meet this test and they do not export live cattle. So the only other properties prevented from exporting live cattle are those under a notice of quarantine and the Minister’s Protection Zone policy is resulting in the largest share by far of the denial to live export to Indonesia.

Entrust the management of BJD to the cattle producers and you will have no disruption to trade in live cattle to Indonesia.

There are no international markets where access needs to be underpinned by the minister’s draconian BJD management policy. The minister’s policy has no clothes. There is no reason to prosecute this damaging policy. If he is advised by AgForce and the Cattle Council of Australia, then they will share responsibility for the losses and costs incurred by the illegally quarantined properties and may find themselves as parties to a future class action if one is necessary.

The Supreme Court and its Chief Justice did not rule “on a technicality” as Dr McVeigh suggests. Put simply the court determined that bison strain is not cattle strain, and your department’s regulations until last Friday said bovine Johne’s disease only comes from cattle strain. These are not issues of technicalities. They are fundamental in the application of your Livestock Act 1915.

Why your department did not put through the updates rushed through last week at the time the bison strain was discovered in 2013 is a question you should put to them. They knew it was bison strain and the regulations clearly said cattle strain. Compensation now payable to those devastated by your poor management policy could have been avoided if your department had been competent on this issue. Queensland taxpayers will be paying for your department’s incompetence.

Of course on behalf of those quarantined we are pleased that they were incompetent on this issue. Affected cattle producers would not be in position to commence a possible class action to recover their losses and costs. Of course there will be others in the community affected by this problem and therefore capable of joining the class action.

In the media release the Minister also claims to be “following the agreed-to national protocols on Johne’s disease to maintain market access.” As explained earlier there are no BJD market access issues. However, Queensland is also not following the national protocols.

One case in point relates to your recent updating of the Stock Regulations.

In section 43B (4), you provide that the section applies to all strains of Johne’s disease regardless of whether the national protocol mention the strain – clearly at odds with the national protocol.

With regard to the live trade issue, in the southern states where BJD is endemic in the dairy herd, they are trading hundreds of thousands of live animals to distant markets such as the Middle East, Mexico, China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, etc without any concern about BJD.

Protocols for dairy live shipment are established with the importing country and met. AQIS oversee the movement of these animals and it goes on month after month without disruption. Queensland cattle producers are being hoodwinked if they think live trade would be any different if the Protection Zone policy was abandoned and they were entrusted with management responsibility for BJD.

There is still the opportunity for the Queensland Government to secure the moral high ground and announce their intention to fully compensate those producers quarantined as suspect under bison strain. However whether they have the political fortitude to take this course remains to be seen.

John Gunthorpe

BJD Action Group


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. Ken Mackenzie, 16/12/2014

    Readers of Beef Central might like to know of the comprehensive defeat suffered by the owners of Vanrook in the Supreme Court on 12 December. But nothing so far seen here.

  2. Wallace Gunthorpe, 03/12/2014

    Thank you John for your support.All Queensland cattle producers should be grateful for your effort in helping point out the huge injustice that is being forced upon them.About time QDAFF,AgForce,CCA and AHA took responsibility for the unnecessary hardship they are putting a lot of people under.

Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -