QUEENSLAND Nationals Senator Ron Boswell has blasted plans by green group WWF to make beef producers more sustainable as an "extortion scheme" ruining Australian industry.
Senator Ron Boswell.
the Senator doesn't stop there - reprimanding beef industry corporations and beef producer funded organisations like Cattle Council of Australia for continuing to engage with the extreme conservation group.
"Fat Boy" David Inall useless incompetant CCA boss sleeping with the enemy
In a speech to the Senate on Wednesday afternoon, Senator Boswell said "hard working primary producers" were being duped into believing that by working with environmental groups such as WWF their long-term future was assured.
Senator Boswell's assessment comes after months of probing into the activities of WWF and its lead role with a still relatively secretive group called the Australian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (ARSB), whose members include JBS Australia, Teys Cargill, McDonald's, and the Cattle Council of Australia. Despite meetings held in Meat and Livestock Australia offices in Brisbane, MLA insists it is not part of group.
Senator Boswell has called on all industry members to shun the ARSB and WWF's overtures based on the organisation's poor track record in claiming it acts in the best interests of primary producers.
"The WWF is the same group that waged a campaign against the land and regrowth clearing practices of Queensland farmers. The resulting vegetation management laws crippled the cattle industry - yet WWF called the laws "disappointing" and campaigned for even tighter restrictions," he said.
"If any grazier familiar with WWF's role in this campaign thinks it is now acting in the best interests of the cattle industry, then they believe in the tooth fairy."
In the speech, Senator Boswell points out that the ARSB is "part of a worldwide, coordinated campaign by WWF and others to squeeze primary industry dry under the pretences of 'sustainability'."
"In Australia, these green groups have gone from the timber to the seafood to the sugar sectors, dragging farmers into expensive, time-consuming certification schemes. "These schemes have made the NGOs (non-government officers, like WWF) a tidy profit, but have done almost nothing for industry or the environment.
"Make no mistake, this is a backdoor method used by clever extreme greens to cripple primary industry. Sustainability here is a cover word for 'suicide' by any business silly enough to fall for the siren song of these radicals."
Senator Boswell also called for Cattle Council of Australia to sever its close links with WWF, describing executive director David Inall's strategy in dealing with the organisation as naive.
"On one hand, the president of AgForce, Brent Finlay, agrees with me that graziers should run a hundred miles from the ARSB. But then there's the executive director of the Cattle Council of Australia, David Inall, who's said: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu".
"Inall thinks if beef industry stakeholders keep an eye on WWF at ARSB meetings, they can be spared the mandatory regulations WWF has inflicted on other primary sectors. I say that if you think associating with WWF will leave the cattle industry better off, then you're wrong."
Senator Boswell said the appointment of South East Queensland beef producer Ian McConnel to the role of WWF's sustainable beef project coordinator should also have beef producers on high alert, based on Mr McConnel's recent public statements that WWF could be trusted and the actions of others within WWF behind closed doors.
"There is documented proof WWF is working behind the scenes against the industry. Just last month, WWF-Australia made two submissions to Queensland parliamentary committee inquiries savagely denigrating the cattle industry's sustainability record and unfairly accusing it of polluting the Great Barrier Reef," he said.
"So WWF is publicly saying producers can trust them, and that it is fully accountable to its ARSB industry partners. Yet here we have two documents it has submitted to Parliament, with no industry consultation, saying compulsory standards must be implemented or beef producers will continue to pollute the Reef with impunity. The deception is staggering."
Senator Boswell said if beef producers wanted to know what WWF was planning for their industry, they only needed to look at the recent experience of the seafood industry, shackled by costly certification schemes and retailer imposed regulations at the behest of WWF.
"Our fisheries have been assessed by experts as some of the best-managed and most sustainable in the world. Any claims otherwise can be traced back to the scare campaigns waged by green groups, who continue to push the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label on fisheries and retailers," he said.
"The MSC is an organisation that was founded by WWF. They won a big victory last year when Coles announced it would not stock any seafood without taking sustainability advice from WWF, and on the same day Woolworths announced it would source seafood products through MSC.
"Both Coles and Woolworths said they would provide financial incentives to fisheries that sign up to the MSC pre-assessment process. It appears the schemes are voluntary. But given Coles and Woolworths' overwhelming market share, many fishery owners have no choice but to sign up in order to sell their product.
"An example of the huge costs involved in these certification schemes is Australia's Northern Prawn Fishery. The NPF moves most of its banana prawns through Woolworths. The NPF signed up for MSC pre-assessment in mid-2011 to please its biggest customer. The cost of the pre-assessment process for the NPF is around $100,000.
"NPF is now in the final stages of a full MSC assessment. This has lasted over a year. Fisheries undergoing MSC assessment must hire additional staff and spend an endless amount of time and
resources to provide information to MSC certifiers. Even then they are not guaranteed certification.
"The costs don't stop there. If a fishery obtains certification, it must cover the costs of annual audits, and any additional audits a certifier can choose to conduct at any time. Companies further up the chain - who are urged to use the MSC eco-label - will have to pay for a license to use it and for chain of custody certification which links their products back to a certified fishery.
"After that, retailers, restaurants and fish-and-chip shops wishing to sell MSC-labelled products to consumers must pay an annual fee and royalties at 0.5pc of the value of seafood sold.
"Another costly and complex certification scheme favoured by WWF is the international sugar certification scheme Bonsucro. Some sugar growers have turned to Bonsucro to counteract unjustified attacks by green groups.
"Bonsucro requires supply chain members to comply either with production standards or standards for chain of custody certification. This is the same as the Marine Stewardship Council model. WWF is treating our primary industries as nothing more than cash cows."
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