JOEL FITZGIBBON: The Department of Agriculture since November 5 of this year have been investigating an alleged incident in Gaza and I took the time yesterday to have a look at what is said to be footage of that incident. And I found the footage confronting and I think most Australians if not all Australians will similarly find it confronting if not distressing.

Today I’m calling upon the Department to seriously consider, very quickly issuing just cause notices to any company it’s investigating as a result of these allegations. The just cause notice of course will put the onus on the company or companies to show cause why their licence should not be suspended until that investigation is complete.

My concern is that there is no indication that that investigation will be completed by the end of this year and indeed it’s likely to be well into the New Year before the Department comes to any conclusions.

My view is that the footage which I understand is going to be more widely distributed today has the very great potential to undermine public confidence in what is a very important industry for this country. So I’m about building public confidence and therefore building on the sustainability in this very important industry, an industry which so many Australian families rely upon for their livelihood.  And I think considering suspending these licences sends a very clear notice to all those who work in the industry that the Australian community and indeed the Australian Government will not allow these indiscretions or these breeches of the ESCAS system to take place.

REPORTER: What’s your understanding in terms of how long the Department has been already looking into this.

FITZGIBBON: My understanding is that it’s been investigating the matter since November 5 of this year, that’s more than a month ago now.  I understand these things do take time but I believe it’s slow necessarily, but too slow and I believe to maintain confidence public confidence in the live export trade its worth considering temporarily suspending the company or companies licences until that investigation has come to a conclusion.

REPORTER: There were threats from the Indonesian Agricultural Minister about boycotting Australian beef is that also a concern?

FITZGIBBON: Well the concerning thing about the Jakarta Post story was that it contained direct quotes allegedly from the Minister of Agriculture in Indonesia and that again just underscores the importance, both the importance of the industry but also the importance of getting this relationship right - something unfortunately this Government seems to be struggling with.

REPORTER: Do you think that suspending licences of live export traders runs in a time line when there is some speculation about a possibly sending the wrong signal?

FITZGIBBON: I don’t think we can allow what’s happening on the international relations front to dictate the timing of these matters. The fact is that this is a very important industry for the country and those who rely upon the industry and I think the sustainability of the industry is directly linked to a critical level of public support. And my fear is that if the Government doesn’t get tougher, that public support will collapse and therefore the sustainability of the industry will come under threat.

REPORTER: Just wondering what you think of the language that John McTiernan’s used in some of his emails to describe people

FITZGIBBON: Look I don’t comment on the performances of Labor staffers.

REPORTER: [Inaudible.]

FITZGIBBON: It’s been a tumultuous year for Labor because we lost an election and that’s always a difficult time for any political party but I think all of you here even will agree and it’s reflected in the opinion polls that the Labor Party is strong, standing by its principles and it’s opting to highlight the incompetency of this current Government. ENDS


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