THE battle to keep Tasmania’s only export accredited abattoir open has continued in the state’s parliament with bipartisan support for a motion backing its continued operation despite opposition by the Greens.
However, Tasmania’s Minister for Primary Industries and Water Jo Palmer has told Sheep Central the government expected abattoirs to uphold the highest of animal welfare standards.
“An active investigation is currently underway, and it is inappropriate to preempt the outcome of that investigation.
“The government is working closely with the TFGA and other stakeholders and the Government will provide a detailed response in coming days,” she said.
“As I’ve said – nothing is off the table.”
TQM is fighting a potential 12-month suspension of its export licence, placing at risk about 200 jobs and the processing of 60,000 stock by mid-January.
The meat processor last Friday received a notice of intention from the federal Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, threatening to suspend its export licence and giving only seven days to respond.
The notice followed the supply to DAFF of illegally obtained footage taken by The Farm Transparency Project within the processor’s Cressy plant.
TQM chief executive officer Jake Oliver has said it appeared that activists illegally accessed the Cressy facility between August and September this year, installing a number of hidden cameras and providing the illegally obtained footage to the government.
The processor said yesterday it had terminated the employment of two workers following an internal investigation.
Tasmanian Independent John Tucker yesterday won bi-partisan support for a motion backing the abattoir’s continued operation in the face of calls for its closure, along with that of other abattoirs featured in the activist footage.
Mr Oliver said the support of the government, Labor and the Independent Member for Lyons John Tucker yesterday was a vote of confidence.
“It is a real vote of confidence to have the Parliament show bipartisan support for our continued export operations, our workers and Tasmanian farmers,” he said.
“There is so much at stake if the Commonwealth follows through on its draft decision to suspend our export licence.
“A suspension of our export licence could force us to close, putting 200 staff out of work at Christmas, and leave Tasmanian farmers with nowhere to process their sheep for export.”
Mr Oliver said TQM will work with all levels of government to adopt additional measures to improve animal welfare, specifically having CCTV cameras monitored.
“In addition, yesterday (Monday), we formally responded to the Commonwealth’s Notice of Intent to suspend our export licence.
“We have provided a very considered and detailed 26-page submission that addresses each allegation, and outlines clearly the actions we have already taken and our willingness to adopt any further actions too,” he said.
“All we ask for is a fair go, and we will cop what we deserve on the chin. But right now, all our workers, every farmer and the entire state face being punished if our export licence is suspended.”
The motion the Tasmanian Parliament supported
That the House –
(1) Joins Tasmanian farmers and the community in condemning in the strongest possible terms the cruelty to animals revealed in the images released from inside Tasmanian slaughterhouses.
(2) Notes that this is a serious breach of animal welfare standards which indicates issues in the regulation of abattoirs.
(3) Calls on the minister to take immediate action to address any regulatory failures and to report to the House in the first sitting week of 2024 on –
(a) an urgent audit of animal welfare standards in all licensed slaughterhouses together with a clear strategy for ongoing regular auditing, including unannounced monitoring audits together with industry education.
(b) evidence of the installation by the 2024 resumption of parliament of 24‑hour video surveillance of stun and slaughter rooms in all licensed abattoir premises and a commitment to any required legislative changes as early as possible in 2024 to make this compulsory.
(c) any other action which the minister considers necessary to ensure Tasmania’s animal welfare standards meet or exceed the highest standards applying across Australia.
(4) Calls on the Government to report to the House when parliament resumes on adequate funding and resourcing of these initiatives.
(5) Requests that the independent federal regulator take into account the following matters before a decision about TQM export licence –
(a) the strong and urgent action mandated by farmers, the community and all sides of this parliament to address and acknowledge the regulatory failures exposed by this case.
(b) while TQM is a repeat offender on animal welfare issues, its record has not been helped by equally obvious failures by regulators.
(c) TQM has been a major contributor to the red meat industry, including providing a lifeline to pork producers after the closure of Devonport City Abattoir in investing heavily, along with Government, in sheep, lamb and calf processing at Cressy.
(d) the Cressy facility employs 200 Tasmanians and provides an essential service to the sheep, lamb and dairy industries.
(e) TQM is heavily reliant on export markets and could not survive a significant suspension of its export licence.
(f) There is no alternative sheep and lamb processing capacity available in Tasmania to Tasmanian farmers. Suspension of the TQM export licence could result in market failure and will not assist animal welfare or farmer wellbeing.
(6) That a copy of this resolution be sent to the regulator by the minister before making a final decision.