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Primary Industries - JBS Takeover


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 9 September 2021

Tags: Fish Farms, State Budget, Environment

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, I'm really happy to do that.

Minister, I want to ask you a couple of questions before I leave the committee about JBS and its planned takeover of Huon. Are you aware that JBS sites in the US accounted for an estimated 31 per cent of the formal enforcement actions pursued by regulators since 2010 and nearly 40 per cent since 2014? There have been numerous US environment protection authority cases brought against JBS affiliates, including Pilgrim's Pride, for the release of effluent into waterways. As you'd be aware, when JBS had its abattoir on King Island it was found to be dumping effluent into Porkys Creek. Is JBS really the sort of corporate operator we want in our fragile marine environment?

Mr BARNETT - Thanks very much for the question. I thank the member for the opportunity to respond to it and to say first of all that Tasmania is open for business. It has been since 2014 and we welcome -

Ms O'CONNOR - Apparently to anyone - even Brazilian butchers who were busted for corruption in the US.

Mr BARNETT - We welcome investment in our agriculture and fishing and salmon sector. Investment delivers growth, development and opportunities for Tasmanians. It all must happen under very strict environment and planning approval process which are rigorous.

Huon Aquaculture certainly is a success story if you look at the history. In terms of the proposed acquisition of Huon Aquaculture by JBS, it's a positive reflection of the global potential for our aquaculture and food sector.

Ms O'CONNOR - It's a positive refection of your Government's weak regulatory approach.

Mr BARNETT - With respect to your question about foreign investment, just to make it very clear, that's a matter for the Foreign Investment Review Board. With respect to your reference to JBS's involvement in the USA, of course we're not involved in regulating or legislating with respect to investment in the USA or any jurisdiction other than Tasmania. The rules and the procedures around sustainable growth and the rigorous planning and approval processes we have in Tasmania will remain no matter who owns parts of our sustainable salmon industry.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, minister.

JBS in the US, on 29 January, was charged over Clean Water Act violations. It has severely damaged waterways in Illinois and Texas, and it is linked to at least 42 500 hectares of deforestation in the Amazon, which is contributing to climate change.

I have an article here from the Australian Financial Review on meat processing giant JBS sharing commercial secrets with big four accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers because it believed its interactions where subject to legal professional privilege. Its lawyers say the horse has already bolted for the court to now remove that privilege. The tax office is concerned about JBS trying to hide behind legal privilege and is suing PwC in an attempt to gain access to swathes of documents related to JBS's work.

Is this really the sort of corporate player we want here in our beautiful marine environment? Don't you think we should have a set of standards about who we invite to do business here, that 'Open for business' should have some constraints around it?

Mr BARNETT - I thank the member for her question and make it very clear that that’s the whole point. In Tasmania we do have rigorous environment and planning approval processes, and those rules apply to JBS or any other entity that operates in Tasmania. Our focus is on building a sustainable industry for Tasmania that delivers on jobs but protects our environment, and delivers that balance. We have a balanced approach -

Ms O'CONNOR - No you don't. That's not what coastal communities around Tasmania say.

Mr BARNETT - This incessant interjecting and verballing of the minister and/or departmental representatives is totally uncalled for. I ask the member to desist.

CHAIR - Thanks, minister, I don't think there's any need for you to third-person yourself either.