Letters to the Editor

Letter – Vic fund policy will save more Qld heartbreak over BJD

John Gunthorpe, Chairman, Australian Beef Industry Foundation, November 13, 2014

In a remarkably honest account of the impact of the Queensland Government’s bad policy on managing bovine Johne’s disease (BJD), husband and wife cattle producers from Queensland have detailed the stress resulting from their financial hardship after purchasing a bull from a property subsequently declared “suspect”.

Under what appears to be a flawed application of the Queensland Government’s Protection Zone policy for the management of BJD, they were quarantined for two and a half years and to this day do not know why.

They asked us not to publish their name because of the stigma attaching to being a Johne’s quarantined property and their possible need to sell their property to repay the debt resulting from their property being quarantined for such a long period despite no infection being found on their property.

However members of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests (QDAFF) know who they are as do members of the BJD Action Coalition.

While quarantined they lost 95pc of their income but they still had 100pc of their bills to pay. They are now paying off their bills on weekly plans so they still have money to buy food to sustain themselves. Yes, Queensland agriculture minister John McVeigh, people like this couple are suffering significant stress due to your government’s policy for managing BJD. They are not being fairly compensated and are being asked to bear the cost of the quarantine even though you acknowledge that the whole industry is to benefit from the current Protected Zone policy for BJD in Queensland.

It is disappointing therefore that Dr McVeigh chose to announce additional short-term funding (New BJD financial assistance in Queensland” Beef Central 9/10/2014) but not to honour his statement on 18th January 2013 that “the Newman Government does not expect individual producers to bear the cost of eradication programs that ultimately benefit all in the cattle industry”.

Well we can assure you Dr McVeigh the couple about whom we write and all others quarantined are bearing the cost.

Just after New Year 2012 a Senior Queensland DAFF vet and an adviser from the Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) visited the subject property to inform the couple that their property was quarantined because of “suspected” BJD infection. Their bull was slaughtered two weeks later and laboratory testing proved that it was not infected with BJD.

You would think this would be the end of the nightmare for this couple. It was not. Cows were tested even though the bull was clean. The couple considered the QDAFF vet was out of his depth. On one occasion they
found him leaning on his ute not far from their yards saying to himself that he did not know what to do. When they suggested he should seek help from someone familiar with the disease he replied: “that won’t happen”.

Conflicting advice about what they should do regarding the purchase of stock was received from the QDAFF vet.

By the time they realised that the property was not going to be released from quarantine even though the bull was clean of BJD, they had amassed significant debt. They were debt free when the QDAFF vet first visited their
property.

Management plans drafted by QDAFF changed so many times that they did not know what was right or wrong.

They tried to get the parties involved in the issue together to sort out a plan but the QDAFF vet and the CCA adviser would not attend the meeting.

When the $5 million compensation package was made available by the Queensland Government, their CCA rep and a financial advisor visited the property and asked them to get all their accounts together so that maybe they
could get some financial help from the government. The CCA rep then told them there would be no money available for them from the National BJD Fund.

Their struggle for compensation took two years and in the end they received just $26,000 from the Qld Government. This was 25pc of the value of slaughtered stock. The last 10 cows were sent to slaughter in May 2014. They had three calves on them which they were allowed to keep. They were told the quarantine would be lifted if the cows were killed.

Their accountant has calculated that this episode has cost them just short of $500,000. Their bank refused to lend to them because they were in quarantine. Fortunately the Bendigo Bank was more compassionate and provided funding in their time of difficulties. They both secured work off farm to meet their costs.

Its time Dr McVeigh that you introduce your much discussed Cattle Industry Biosecurity Fund to raise money to fully compensate this couple and others ruined by your government’s flawed Protection Zone policy for the
management of BJD. Now we know piggy backing on the federal scheme will not work, adopt the Victorian policy that has worked for many years and charge stamp duty on all cattle transactions in the state.

In Victoria it is at the rate of 5 cents per $20 or $1.75 for a $700 sale. It is easy to administer with the stock agents and abattoirs collecting the duty and remitting it to the State Revenue Office monthly and it is declared on all vendor accounts.

Based on your Interim Committee’s figures it could raise $8 million a year and this would provide sufficient confidence for your government to lend the rest of the funds needed to fully compensate Queensland producers quarantined under your BJD management policy.

Sincerely

John Gunthorpe

Chairman 

Australian Beef Industry Foundation

 

 

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Comments

  1. Wallace Gunthorpe, November 13, 2014

    Well said John.We certainly need to put an end to this grossly unfair policy that is encouraged and supported by AgForce.We all know right from wrong and this current policy is clearly WRONG !

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