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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 248

Department of Agriculture: Serana (WA) Pty Ltd

(Question No. 492)

Ms MacTiernan asked the Minister for Agriculture, in writing, on 30 September 2014:

(1) In respect of the Federal Court decision in Serana (WA) Pty Ltd v Mignaccu-Randazzo SM [2014] FCA 120, is he aware that

(a) there was a serious question as to the accuracy of, inter alia, an affidavit by Mr Andrew Baxter, an officer of his department, dated 10 December 2013 and relied on by a magistrate in issuing a search warrant,

(b) in a subsequent affidavit dated 24 January 2014, Mr Baxter sought to explain the application for a search warrant by reference to a series of emails he purported to have seen and certain words contained in those emails,

(c) in a further affidavit dated 4 February 2014, Mr Baxter said that the emails referred to in his affidavit of 24 January 2014 had not contained the words he relied on, rather they were the words of an informant/complainant,

(d) there was a prima facie case that the search warrant issued on reliance of Mr Baxter's 10 December 2013 affidavit was unlawfully issued,

(e) it was Mr Baxter who was the 'true decision-maker' and not Mr Christopher Burleigh, another officer of his department, who sought advice and decided that a quarantine order should be made,

(f) there was 'no evidentiary basis to ground the suspicion' purported by Mr Baxter as justifying the decision to make a quarantine order,

(g) a quarantine order made in the course of a search executed on authority of that warrant issued by that magistrate was, prima facie, unlawfully made,

(g) despite having seized and held for two months approximately 7000 litres of bovine serum, his department was 'not able to produce in evidence one document that supported the suspicion that the applicant had imported serum from a non-foot-and-mouth disease-free country', and

(h) despite having stated in its application for a search warrant that Serana was suspected of importing and blending serum from non-foot-and-mouth disease-free countries since September 2008, his department adduced no evidence in support of that allegation.

(2) Has there been an investigation into the actions of his departmental officials in their preparation for and conduct of these proceedings; if so, what were the results of the investigation; if not, why not.

Mr Joyce: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) I am aware that the Federal Court considered the issue of a warrant granted to the department in relation to Serana. I am also aware of the broader circumstances of the matter. As you are aware, court proceedings were settled by both parties prior to a final hearing. The Judge noted during proceedings, as reflected in the transcript, the court did not have the benefit of all available evidence.

(2) The department has conducted inquiries into the actions of departmental officials in their preparation for and conduct of these proceedings. The inquiries did not identify any evidence of deliberate wrong doing.