Secrecy around waste company that illegally dumped meat

Tracey Ferrier |

An unnamed  waste company has illegally dumped about 300kg of imported meat products.
An unnamed waste company has illegally dumped about 300kg of imported meat products.

The federal government is refusing to name a national company trusted to manage biosecurity risks after it illegally dumped hundreds of kilograms of imported meat.

The agriculture department says “privacy and operational” concerns are behind the decision to keep the name of the waste company secret.

That’s despite the department issuing a press release about serious biosecurity act breaches that have sparked two years of special monitoring.

Monitoring will occur under an enforceable undertaking the department has accepted from the company, requiring it to retrain staff and bring in an independent auditor to make sure it’s doing the right thing.

The Greens have demanded greater transparency on a matter of national importance.

“There are significant questions the government must answer in relation to this matter, and hiding behind ‘privacy and operational’ concerns isn’t going to cut it,” says the party’s agriculture spokesperson Senator Peter Whish-Wilson.

Australia’s Director of Biosecurity Andrew Metcalfe says any breach of biosecurity arrangements could have had significant consequences for the environment, the economy and animal health.

But he defended his department’s use of approved arrangements, which allow authorised companies to manage biosecurity risks on behalf of the department.

Approved companies can use their own sites, facilities, equipment and people and without “constant supervision by the department” but with “occasional” compliance monitoring or auditing.

“Approved arrangements play an important role in the balance between keeping up with the flow of goods into the country and managing Australia’s biosecurity risks. We are keen to work with our partners to ensure our high standards are met and maintained,” Mr Metcalfe said.

As of the end of last year, Australia had more than 3600 such arrangements.

When AAP asked the department to name the company that dumped the meat products, it said: “Due to operational and privacy reasons we are unable to provide this information.”

It described the material as “mixed meat products” and “failed food for human consumption”, totalling about 300kg.

“Products were taken to a non-approved waste disposal facility and deep buried,” it said.

“Approved arrangements are approved to conduct certain functions on the department’s behalf. These arrangements were not met on this occasion. The breach highlights the departments vigilance and monitoring of approved entities.”

The department did not respond to a question about where the meat was dumped.

Enforceable undertakings allow the department to respond to beaches of biosecurity laws by requiring companies to “come back into compliance and prevent future breaches”.

If companies fail to comply with such undertakings, they may be enforced by the Federal Court.