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Senate inquiry to investigate halal, kosher certification

Beef Central, 14/05/2015

The Senate Economic References Committee will conduct an inquiry into the certification of halal, kosher, organic and genetically modified food, after a motion moved by Liberal senator Cory Bernardi was passed by the Senate yesterday.

The South Australian Senator introduced a motion to the Senate calling for an investigation into food certification schemes, including whether the public was given enough information about certifiers’ financial records.

According to a Guardian report, Senators voted 34 in favour to 30 against the six-month inquiry by the Senate’s economic references committee.

It passed with the support of the government along with six crossbenchers: Jacqui Lambie, Bob Day, Glenn Lazarus, David Leyonhjelm, John Madigan and Ricky Muir. The Labor party and the Greens opposed the motion.

Senator Bernardi said the inquiry would not be confined to halal alone.

“There seems to be a number of concerns about some certification schemes that are operating and in the interests of transparency and establishing the facts and being able to act in the national interest I think it’s wise for the parliament to consider all certification schemes and how they operate,” the conservative backbencher said, according to the Guardian’s report.

“I keep getting told any number of things about certification schemes and I don’t know what’s true and what’s not true, so I want to establish the facts.”

Several high-profile companies have been targeted by anti-halal campaigners. In January, the head of one of Australia’s largest certifiers launched defamation proceedings in the New South Wales supreme court after a campaigner made allegations about a financial link to terrorist organisations.

The parliamentary inquiry will be asked to examine “the extent of food certification schemes and certifiers in Australia including, but not limited to, schemes related to organic, kosher, halal and genetically-modified food and general food safety certification schemes”.

The terms of reference include labelling requirements, certification fees paid by food producers, and “whether current schemes provide enough information for Australian consumers to make informed purchasing decisions”.

Agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce, last month warned his colleagues against “picking a fight that we never needed to have” because of consequences for Australian exporters.

“Unless it’s halal certified, we can’t sell it. That means the whole processing line becomes unviable,” Joyce, the deputy leader of the Nationals, said last month.

“If we didn’t have the halal market in beef, that could really affect thousands of meat workers in Australia.”

Senator Bernadi has previously stated he is concerned about the lack of clarity around “where the facts end and the fiction begins in relation to halal certification”.

Writing on his website in March  Senator Bernadi said he hadn’t been able to ascertain what the cost of the religious tax was to individual companies or the overall cost to the Australian consumer.

“No one has been able to explain why water, milk and cat food need halal certification. No one has been able to explain all the groups involved in the certification racket and where the money paid actually ends up.

“I have seen emails from purported halal certification entrepreneurs that do not inspire any confidence in the integrity or intent of such schemes.

“Earlier, I referred to this entire process as a racket. That’s because I have also heard from people who have been intimidated into paying for certification even though they didn’t want to.

“In my view, these questions are just the tip of the iceberg.”

The Senator said the matter was being clouded by a shroud of secrecy that was allowing all sorts of allegations and insinuations to be made.

“In other countries, halal certification schemes have been used to fund organisations linked to proscribed extremist organisations. We also know it has operated effectively as a religious tariff in order for Australian products to gain entry into certain markets.

“There are also concerns from a range of people who don’t like the religious slaughter of livestock or who want the option of choosing meat products that haven’t been subject to ritual slaughter.

“However, the people that hold such views often aren’t able to make an appropriate choice because even though some lamb, goat and chicken is slaughtered halal in this country, most isn’t labelled appropriately.”

“…Given the competing claims and counter claims, I believe that the best means of establishing the facts is to hold a parliamentary inquiry.”

 

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Comments

  1. Madonna Woodward, 19/05/2015

    Good on Senator Bernardi! This action is long overdue and there are many articles where statements have been made by those on the receiving end of intimidating tactics. Other religions who have been in this country for decades have not imposed this type of demands on producers. Australian was multicultural long before the Muslim population increased in this country and immigrants not only bought the positives of their culture but assimilated. I resent having to pay the increased costs for this certification on every day foods due to a religion I do not support. And there is a history of this income financing terrorism. At least with organics there is a clear choice to buy that product or not.

  2. John Cooper, 15/05/2015

    In answer to some of Datu Avdan’s comments .It is impossible to differentiate between Halal product and non halal product off an animal carcase when the animal has been slaughtered to comply with the religious requirement .It is all Halal or not Halal.This of course makes it very difficult when there are parts of the carcase that that will go to different markets.If labeling becomes too particular it will present a problem as to how this technical issue can be solved to allow sensible commercial marketing of product .
    I hope that the Senate committee takes such matters into consideration in their inquiry into certification eligibility and cost to industry.

  3. Datu Acdan, 14/05/2015

    Erratum: If businesses aim to export their products to Muslim countries then it is acceptable that this products for export should come from halal certified factory, but ensure their product to be distributed local should not be required to be halal certified, should be optional.

  4. Datu Acdan, 14/05/2015

    We have to remember that Australia is a multicultural country. If we aim to respect Muslim Australian by requiring all products to be halal certified, have you asked other non Muslim if they can eat halal products? We have to understand that many Christians can’t eat halal foods in reality as this has been offered, prayed to the gods of Muslim. If businesses aim to export their product to Muslim countries then it is acceptable that this products for export should came from halal certified factory, but ensure their product to be distributed locally should be required to be halal certified.

    This is why lawmakers should carefully study this halal thing as this will be discriminatory to others at the end of the day and as we all know not small amount involve in here that has been passed to the consumers to pay.

    Datu of WA

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