FEDERAL Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig has responded to questions in the senate about the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) debt on two WA abattoirs.
The Gingin Abattoir and Hillside Meats abattoir both went into receivership and have since been bought by new owners, yet AQIS is claiming the companies cannot export any product until a carry-over debt has been paid.
Liberal Senator Mathias Cormann asked eight questions of Mr Ludwig.
Of the eight questions Mr Ludwig responded to them all, but the answers were lacking details.
Pastoralist Jack Burton, owner of the Gingin Abattoir, continues to fight the AQIS debt claiming he doesn't owe the money.
Mr Burton said legal action was a last resort but claims he was not notified of the debt by the liquidators, RSM Bird Cameron.
Farm Weekly has contacted RSM Bird Cameron on a number of occasions and the company refuses to comment on the issue.
But Mr Burton said in his dealing with the company, RSM Bird Cameron said it was not notified by AQIS of the debt.
Mr Burton said he then contacted AQIS about whether it had notified the liquidators but it claimed "it couldn't find the letter."
Mr Burton said everything would go away if Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig waived the debt, but that doesn't seem likely given the response to Mr Cormann's seventh question.
"The department has the authority to remit debt under the Export Control (Meat and Meat Products) Orders 2005 but remissions are generally only granted due to exceptional circumstances affecting production at an establishment (such as natural disaster) and not on debt incurred for the provision of services," Mr Ludwig said.
Mr Burton questioned the response from the Minister saying it can't be a provision of service.
"It's not provision of services. It is a monthly fee and all of this debt was incurred when the abattoir wasn't even operating so how can it be provision of services?" Mr Burton said.
Farm Weekly understands Hillside Meats, which has been bought by Livestock Shipping Services (LSS), also incurred a debt from AQIS, but that debt was only found after the liquidators, PricewaterhouseCoopers, made some inquiries to AQIS following the original story by Farm Weekly on July 12, 2012.
It is believed the debt was known before the Hillside Abattoir had been settled.
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