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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee

ANDRAE, Ms Margo, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Pork Limited

HOUGH, Mr Craig, Director, Strategy and Policy, Australian Dairy Farmers Ltd

KERR, Ms Deb, General Manager, Policy, Australian Pork Limited

KITE, Dr Vivien, Executive Director, Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc.

TESSMANN, Mr Brian, Chair, Animal Health and Welfare Policy Advisory Group, Australian Dairy Farmers Ltd

[09:5 5 ]

CHAIR: I welcome representatives of Australian Pork Limited, Australian Dairy Farmers and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation. Thank you for taking the time to give evidence to us today. Information about parliamentary privilege has been provided to you and is available from the secretariat. The committee has received your submissions as submissions 16, 54 and 52 respectively. Do any of you wish to make any corrections or changes to your submissions? No. Do you have any comment to make about the capacity in which you appear?

Mr Hough : I am the author of our submission.

Mr Tessmann : I am also President of the Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation. I'm a dairy farmer of a family-run farm between Kingaroy and Nanango in the South Burnett of Queensland.

CHAIR: That's really God's country.

Mr Tessmann : That's it.

Ms Andrae : I am entering week 2 as Chief Executive Officer of Australian Pork Limited.

CHAIR: Congratulations. There's an opportunity for each of you to make a brief opening statement if you'd like to, keeping in mind that we have quite a few questions. Dr Kite, do you have anything to open with?

Dr Kite : The Australian Chicken Meat Federation is the peak coordinating body for participants in the chicken meat industry across Australia. It represents all elements of the industry, including chicken farmers and chicken-processing companies. The federation strongly supports the bill, which we believe will go some way to help to protect Australian farmers and other agricultural producers from the unlawful actions of animal activists. Farmers and other businesses in our industry have been the target of illegal trespass by animal activists. Detriment caused has included theft, property damage, serious negative impacts on bird welfare, costly disruptions to the operation of their businesses and impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of those targeted, including farmers, their families and their staff as well as the staff, management and owners of chicken-processing companies and plants.

While the act of trespass itself is already illegal under existing state and territory laws, these laws fail to really adequately address the culpability of those who promote, enlist, coordinate and incite others to commit these sorts of offences, which often result in the damage that I've referred to and significant detriment to people or to businesses that are targeted. We think that this bill helps to close this loophole and it does send that clear message to animal activists and to the community that, if they promote or incite such illegal activities, there are going to be consequences.

The major concerns our industry have—and I'm sure you've seen this before—with respect to trespass on chicken farms and other chicken facilities are, firstly, the significant risks of introducing and spreading poultry diseases through breaching the industry's really strict biosecurity requirements. There are also risks of introducing and spreading food safety pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter, again through breaching the industry's farm biosecurity requirements, which have also been designed around trying to prevent those sorts of food safety risks. Trespass into chicken-processing plants without taking proper precautions also brings with it a risk of contaminating chicken products that are in the plant with food safety pathogens and introducing, potentially, other food safety risks.

We're really concerned about the potential for injury, death and other impacts on the welfare of chickens during a trespass, which we accept in many cases is likely to be accidental or incidental, but nevertheless it is sometimes a consequence of a trespass. Trespass can result in property damage. Again, sometimes it's deliberate—the cutting of locks and that type of thing—but it's probably mostly incidental. Theft is another common outcome of trespass. In our case, chickens are frequently removed from premises in the course of a trespass by activists. While the perpetrators try to portray this as liberating the birds, it's basically common theft. Trespass often results in very major and very costly disruptions to the efficient operation of a business. This is particularly the case in the case of chicken processing plants.

We're also really aware of and really concerned about the risk of physical harm to those who actually conduct the trespass, as they often put themselves in positions that are inherently dangerous. For example, in a trespass at a processing plant, they're putting themselves around a lot of heavy moving equipment or they're climbing up onto trucks. They are sometimes moving in between moving trucks and so on, which are delivering birds to plants. In doing so, they also are putting others, including staff, at significant risk.

Finally, I just want to mention a very real but often inadequately recognised consequence of trespass. The act of trespass is going onto a farmer's private property, which is also usually their residence and their home. In the case of a chicken farm, where the business is conducted is usually very close to the home, because the farmer has to be very close to his chicken barns. Their families are usually really traumatised by this event, and I think we've just heard some evidence of that. It's pretty much like anybody else who is subject to a home invasion. This impact is really exacerbated when there's a large group of trespassers involved or where there's intimidation, harassment or repeat offending against a particular farmer. Their family and staff are always affected too. This is also felt by the staff and management of processing plants, who additionally need to manage some of those risks that I mentioned earlier—that is, the risks that the trespassers pose to themselves and also the risks that are inherent to food safety and also bird welfare due to stoppages. That's all I would like to say. Thank you.

Mr Hough : Good morning, and thanks for the opportunity to present today. Brian and I are here today to defend the dairy industry against the animal activists who have been attacking our industry pretty much since social media became mainstream in the country. Senator Carr, you asked about whether research stations should be included in this bill. We would say yes. Back in March 2016, our Rural Research and Development Corporation at Dairy Australia was invaded by 20-odd activists doing a sit-in. The workers there couldn't come and go as they pleased, so the building was essentially locked down for a period of time.

In the last 12 months, those invasions and farm trespasses have exacerbated. In Western Australia, for example, between August 2018 and February 2019, six activists were charged by WA police for a combination of trespass, theft, damage, harassment, destruction and invasion of privacy on various farms over there. One of our presidents in Australian Dairy Farmers, Michael Partridge of the White Rocks Dairy, had a live calf stolen by the head of one of the activists over there as well, which was part of those incidents.

More recently, on 8 April, which was national invasion day and the anniversary of the Dominion movie, we had a farm in Warwick, in Queensland, in Brian's area, where a large group descended on the dairy farm there, opened the gates and let the cattle run wild on to the road. Similarly, state government offices in Hobart were stormed by animal activists. One of Melbourne's busiest intersections, on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street, was closed after 100 activists did a sit-in there. That part of the city was essentially locked down for a day. In Queensland as well, in the Darling Downs, we had a dairy farm there—which was milking about 900 cows—which was stormed by 100 activists in March, which was before the national day. That was at Lemontree Dairy. That guy's now out of business and not working anymore. Post the national invasion day, we had a dairy farm north of Adelaide—run by a guy by the name of Mike Borema—that was invaded on two occasions. There was one where the cows were released again from the gates being opened. More recently, in June, his shed was burnt down and his front loader was destroyed as well. That's just a snapshot of what's happening.

In terms of the question around statistics, I've looked at that, and the ABS doesn't really report farm trespass per se. Even the state authorities don't do that, so it's hard to put a statistical representation at an aggregate level around that. We can only really go on member incidents, and they're much more prevalent. The main thing, in relation to this bill, is that what's fuelling these incidents is social media platforms like Messenger, Facebook, Aussie Farms and so on. That's why this bill is important. The reason these animal activists do these crimes is fundamentally that they want the animal industry shut down permanently. They've been pretty clear about that in submissions they've made to this committee. I quote from Vegan Australia, who've asked the parliament 'to phase out this industry entirely within 10 years'. If you have that fundamental belief, you're going to act in a way that's going to achieve that fundamental agenda. They're not going to be objective, and they're not going to be rational in their ways. In fact, as their rationale for that, they portray the animal industries as hiding and condoning animal abuse. Their intention is to brainwash the public and make people adopt plant based diets.

We're here to say from a dairy perspective that that's all false. In fact, we're going over and above the animal welfare laws of this country. State and territory governments essentially regulate animal welfare in this country. In Victoria, where we have 60 per cent of the milk production—there are nearly 4,000 dairy farms down there—in the nearly 5½ years from the period of 2012 to 2018 the Victorian government only prosecuted 71 cases of breach of animal welfare, and that was across the entire livestock industry. That's taking in the sheep and the pork and the others as well. In that context, it's such a low noncompliance rate with animal welfare law.

We have standards above the state laws, and those animal welfare policies are explained in our submission. We've been arguing for all states to adopt in legislation the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle, which we adopted as industry policy in 2013. Only New South Wales and South Australia have legislated that. We've been advocating for other states to do that. If we were hiding and condoning animal abuse, why would we be pushing that agenda? It's false. On the farms themselves, we have dairy farms that are audited annually by their milk processors not just for animal welfare but for environmental and other compliance. Those audits are fed into capacity-building supports with Dairy Australia extension staff or milk processor services teams. Practice change occurs through those processes.

At an aggregate level, in 2012 we introduced a sustainability framework, which is available publicly on our website. We report annually against animal welfare targets that we've got in there but also against other environmental, social and economic indicators. It's aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Essentially what that's reporting is that we are improving animal welfare over and above the law. Take, for example, tail docking: 10 years ago, 50 per cent of dairy farmers were doing it, and that's now down to 10 per cent. That's been industry-led. Again, the activists' argument is not true here.

We say that there are two reasons why you can't shut down the dairy industry in this country. One is that you'll have a public health crisis if you do. Dairy foods are one of the five core food groups people need for human health. Dairy has essential nutrients that you can't get in your bodies. You have to have a diet for them. Dairy is essential for bone health and for reducing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers and type 2 diabetes, which is a major issue in this country.

CHAIR: I'm sorry to interrupt you, Mr Hough, but do you have a lot to go?

Mr Hough : No. That's pretty much it—there's the economic argument as well. Really, what we're saying here is that the activists will argue that the Criminal Code covers incitement of trespass through a carriage service, but we say that section 474.17(2) limits that to emergency service workers, so this bill is needed to have farmers and their families protected.

CHAIR: Because I cut you short a little, you're welcome to table any document you'd like to, or, if you feel like you've made the points you wanted to—

Mr Hough : I think I've made the point.

CHAIR: Thank you so much. I am sorry for interrupting you. Mr Tessmann, did you have something you wanted to add?

Mr Tessmann : All I would add—Craig has given quite a comprehensive summary—is that, from a dairy farmer's point of view, a dairy farm is for the vast majority the place where the farmers live, where their families are and where they operate. They take great pride in looking after their animals. I think that the threat of an organised invasion on their farms has caused great discomfort on farms, and I think that's the bit that makes it different to most of the other invasions that have occurred. It is as if they turn up in your house: you open the front door and they all storm into your living room. That is the type of thing it is. People are scared to leave their elderly parents at home to take care of the farm and that. So it's huge. It's almost terrorising them off the farm. As we've said, the Lemontree Dairy is no longer producing milk. That was a large farm. So I'd just like to add that. Thank you.

CHAIR: That's a meaningful point of difference. Thank you very much, Mr Tessmann. Ms Andrae or Ms Kerr, I'm not sure if you have separate submissions or a single submission.

Ms Andrae : We'll be quick.

Ms Kerr : Yes, we'll be quick. I'm not going to replicate what's in our submission. Since we lodged that submission, we have produced an industry survey which included a couple of questions around animal activism, and I'm going to table that for you today.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Ms Kerr : Essentially, what it demonstrates is that 41 per cent of the industry, by sow number, have suffered a raid by animal activists and 43 per cent of the producers have had images posted. So we've got them both by producer number and by sow number.

I'd make just one or two other quick points. Animal activism has affected producers from the smallest producer right through to the largest producer; it's non-discriminatory in that respect. The other point that I would make, which is probably outlined more clearly in our submission, is that, regardless of whether or not this bill is passed or the amendments at state level that are being considered are passed, really this comes down to the judiciary as well. Summary offences that get a dollar fine for the theft of a goat, for example, make a joke of the law. These offences need to be indictable. They need to be heard clearly by the courts, and the magistrates really do need to take it much more seriously than they have. We'll leave it there and are happy to take questions.

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Kerr.

Senator KIM CARR: This bill covers abattoirs and production facilities. You'd be familiar with state laws that cover all of these areas—I trust you are familiar with them. Every state has laws covering trespass and the like. This bill does not, according to claims by the Attorney-General's Department, create new offences, so the suggestion that it does is contradicted by the department. What difference will this bill make, in your judgement, given the plethora of state laws that currently exist?

Mr Hough : I might have a crack at that. State laws deal with the individuals who are going onto the farms and doing the actual trespass or the property damage.

Senator KIM CARR: No, they include incitement. State laws include incitement.

Mr Hough : Yes. Also, in the federal Criminal Code, section 474.17 says that using a carriage service to menace, harass, or cause offence is punishable by imprisonment for three years, but the issue that we have with that is that subsection (2) actually limits the victims of that menacing to emergency service workers, fundamentally. So that may be the reason why there have been no prosecutions for incitement against farmers.

Senator KIM CARR: But 'incitement' is a very broadly defined term, as I've indicated. You heard the exchange before. It goes back to some pretty draconian British law to deal with the Industrial Revolution.

Mr Hough : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Those legislative principles are still in play. What difference will this legislation make to the operations of the law in Australia—that is, the actual application of the law?

Mr Hough : The application is a question for government and for the police forces. They enforce the law, and governments assign budgets to resource that.

Senator KIM CARR: So you'd expect more Commonwealth officers to be put on, would you?

Mr Hough : Of course.

Senator KIM CARR: You would?

Mr Hough : All breaches of laws should be prosecuted; otherwise there's no point in having law.

Senator KIM CARR: So you'd want the Australian Federal Police to enforce these laws throughout Australia, would you?

Mr Hough : Yes. That is their role.

Senator KIM CARR: You've indicated that these measures should be prosecuted by the Federal Police right throughout the Commonwealth. Other witnesses have suggested these laws are limited and should not be applied just to agricultural businesses. What's so special about agricultural businesses that there should be specific laws for agricultural businesses and not for other businesses? We've had submissions from the mining industry, from forestry, from aquaculture. They suggest that there should be an extension of these principles to their businesses. Why shouldn't they have those principles extended to them?

Mr Tessmann : Senator Carr, as I outlined earlier, certainly as far as dairy is concerned, which is really all I can speak on, most dairy farms are the places where the farmers live, it is the place where their families are. What this has caused—it's not something that's happening at a mine site that you go to only when you're working. This is where the farmers live, where their families are, where they have all their other personal things as well, and all that's affected by this. To me, from a dairy point of view, this is equivalent to invading your home. It's a very different situation.

Senator KIM CARR: Does anyone else have anything to say on that matter—the special application of these laws to agriculture, as defined here?

Ms Kerr : In terms of agriculture, for our industry at least, these are biosecure premises. In addition to what Mr Tessmann has said, that requirement is governed by the farmer, and the activists really actually do not comply with that. It's not their job to consider biosecurity. It is the farmer's job to actually ascertain for themselves whether or not people coming on to their property are biosecure, whether they're vets, whether they're activists, whether they're people coming to read electricity meters.

Senator KIM CARR: So there are special requirements for biosecurity?

Ms Kerr : I believe so. For biosecurity, at least for our industry, there are particular requirements. I think the proposed amendments to the code actually make it clear that agriculture can take these particular—

Senator KIM CARR: What about the application of these laws to farmers as advocates and as agitators—as activists?

CHAIR: I guess it's worth knowing whether farmers are seeking the right to incite others to trespass.

Senator KIM CARR: Well they might be—for instance, in the case of a pipeline being put through prime agricultural land or mining being undertaken on dairy farms. We've seen in Victoria quite substantial protest activities by farmers against foreign multinationals, as they would put it. What do you say about the application of these laws against farmers?

Dr Kite : We advocate that everybody has to adhere to the law, irrespective.

Senator KIM CARR: Even farmers?

Dr Kite : Yes.

Mr Tessmann : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. What happens with farmers—not farmers, but meat processors. I'm closely associated with the meat industry, have been for many, many years. What happens when people break the law there and the whistleblowers actually reveal that. Aren't they entitled to some protection?

Ms Kerr : If anybody operating in an abattoir is breaking the law then, as Dr Kite said, the law should apply to that person or persons who are breaking the law. As the Australian pork industry representative, we've never supported that farmers who aren't doing the right thing are not prosecuted. For example, if they are being cruel to animals, then they ought to be prosecuted to the full weight of the law.

Senator KIM CARR: I accept that; however, how would you know without the information being made public by whistleblowers?

Ms Kerr : So in the case of whistleblowers, the material that is made public is highly doctored.

Senator KIM CARR: There have been no prosecutions?

Ms Kerr : There have been no successful prosecutions of an Australian pork producer in relation to that material. As soon as the chief veterinary officer in each jurisdiction receives that material, they send it off to get analysed. Once they see that it's been cut or doctored or music added or whatever it might be, that material is put in the bin. It does not meet the court's evidentiary requirements. If a producer is doing the wrong thing and on the occasions we get people nominating producers for doing the wrong thing, we don't investigate; we actually ask the appropriate regulator whose job it is to look at compliance to undertake that activity. We're not the experts; they are, and they can collect the evidence on that matter.

Senator KIM CARR: So there are no illegal abattoirs in Australia? You're not aware of any—never heard of such a thing?

Ms Kerr : An illegal abattoir?

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Dr Kite : Yes, I've heard of such a thing. There are food safety authorities in every state that try to identify them and take action against them, and they do take action against them when they find them.

Senator KIM CARR: Abattoirs have never broken the laws in this country?

CHAIR: We might be getting a little off topic, Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: No, it's very much on topic. As I say, I've had a very long association with the meat industry. Not everyone is pristine in the meat industry. I think you'd know that.

Ms Kerr : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: The famous Jodhpur report in Victoria found that people were using the meat industry for the transmission of drugs in bodies of animals. They were using it for meat substitution. They were doing all sorts of massive criminal activity through the meat industry via abattoirs. That information became public through activism. You're saying that people would be prosecuted under these measures—they could be. Have you not considered the implications of that and the damage to the agricultural industries from preventing that sort of activity—not protecting our food safety, not protecting the integrity of our industries and our export industries? Have you not given any consideration to that matter and the implication this sort of legislation would have if that information were suppressed?

Ms Kerr : If an abattoir were doing the wrong thing, then we would support that the full weight of the law, under the investigation, actually—

Senator KIM CARR: Of course you would, if you knew about it.

Ms Kerr : If we knew about it. But, as Vivien said, state food authorities do regularly inspect those premises. For the pork industry, we have seven export abattoirs that slaughter about 88 per cent of the pigs in Australia. Those export abattoirs already have CCTV inside them. Compliance officers are able to actually look at that material.

Senator KIM CARR: Could this legislation be used against union activities?

CHAIR: It's hard to imagine, Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: Would it be hard to imagine? You represent the industry.

Ms Kerr : We represent the livestock sector.

Senator KIM CARR: You've never had a dispute with the AMIEU?

Ms Kerr : No.

Senator KIM CARR: You've never, ever been in dispute with the AMIEU. Could this legislation be used against the AMIEU or the NUW or any of the other unions involved in the dairy industry? Could this not be used against them? You haven't thought about that?

Ms Kerr : We represent pork producers; I am not in a position to comment on others.

Senator KIM CARR: You represent abattoirs, too, don't you?

Ms Kerr : No, we represent pork producers.

Senator KIM CARR: So you have no knowledge of the abattoir side of the business or the food processing side of the business?

Ms Kerr : We work with abattoirs and we work with the supply chain, but our primary obligation is to the levy payers, who are pork producers.

Senator KIM CARR: You have no knowledge of any other food processing sector in terms of agriculture, like aquaculture? You have no connection to those?

Ms Kerr : We have no connection with those.

Senator KIM CARR: Forestry—no connection anywhere there?

Ms Kerr : No.

Senator KIM CARR: So there's been no discussion across agricultural industries about the implications of this bill outside of your immediate concern?

Mr Hough : That's why the cross-commodity agencies presented to you earlier. They look at the whole of agriculture. We're just specific industries, but we're all members of those bodies. That's why they look at the cross.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you very much.

Senator CHANDLER: I think it was Mr Hough who spoke about social media and how that has been used to incite trespass on agricultural property. Can you give us—again, industry-wide; I'm not going to pick on anyone here—some specific examples of how social media might have been used? Obviously this is the exact behaviour we're looking at here in this legislation.

Mr Hough : Those examples I gave you—those farmers—are identified on the Aussie Farms map. Getting 100-plus activists to come onto those reasonably remote farms is coordinated through a platform, and it's often Facebook or Messenger.

Senator CHANDLER: Any other examples?

Ms Kerr : We've got quite a number of examples that I could use. Some are in the public domain—for example, the prosecution in WA for the sit-in at GD Pork that was video streamed live to the world for a couple of hours. We've had other instances. A piggery in Queensland had the first major sit-in of around 90 people in a farrowing shed. They arrived around three or four o'clock in the morning. The workers were confronted, when they opened the door to do their animal welfare checks and feed sows in the farrowing shed, with 90 people sitting down and chained. Those animals couldn't be looked after. In fact, there were some livestock losses as a result of that. It took police and negotiators some significant time. We're talking about probably eight hours or so before the activists agreed to actually remove themselves. During that time, social media was used widely. We had social media outside that particular piggery. It's unfortunate because that producer was talking in the media about his experience and the effect on his people and he was targeted, not just then but time and time and time again. A producer who sticks their head up will be targeted and targeted in a big way. They're just a couple of examples, but we have multiple examples of producers having been targeted through social media means.

Senator CHANDLER: I have a couple of other questions. We've touched on a lot of the impacts that this sort of behaviour or activism can have on farmers and producers. Can we perhaps go into a little bit more detail? I note the data that the pork industry's provided around reproductive loss in sows. That seems to be significantly affecting your members. What does that look like? How does that happen?

Ms Kerr : Our industry's experienced this sort of attention for the most part of this decade. In the early days, they weren't able to know about it or identify it until it was made public, and that could be some years down the track. The material's just kept. An activist might walk into a farrowing shed in the middle of the night. The sows know the stock people who look after them, and their first instinct will be to get up. We have footage where this has happened. The piggery I talked about before put up some CCTV footage. It showed two activists earlier this year who entered a farrowing shed. The sows were nice and quiet, sleeping. As soon as the activists walked around, the sows started getting up. That sort of distress in a group house situation, where you've got pregnant sows, is likely to result in stillbirths and abortions in the sows. You may not notice it at the time, but certainly the piglets born live will be affected. The producers see that decline and they can trace it back to the actual activism activity. That's just one example.

We've had producers whose infrastructure has been damaged. Gates are cut. A sow had a broken leg and had to be euthanised. We had piglets at a Victorian piggery that, when activists cut all the infrastructure in the farrowing shed, drowned in some effluent ponds. The piglets got into the effluent ponds and drowned. We had a significant number of those in one shed in particular. We've had fences onto major highways cut. At night, pigs are going to wander. They fight as well. Pigs are quite hierarchical animals. If you mix pigs that are not used to being in the group, they will fight. You will see the evidence of fighting on the bodies of the pigs: scratches, bite marks and so on. They are all examples of the animal welfare impacts that occur to pigs when these sorts of issues happen.

Senator CHANDLER: It's ironic, isn't it? Dr Kite, from the Chicken Meat Federation: you talked about the biosecurity risk. I visited a chicken processing plant on Friday, so I'm familiar with what it looks like. In the event that you have a protester on the premises, what does that result in for the stock that you might have in a chicken factory at that time? Does it all have to be destroyed?

Dr Kite : It depends where the incursion has occurred. We've had two cases in the last 18 months where there have been very significant break-ins into two processing plants. Immediately that it's recognised that there are unauthorised people on a site they will stop processing, because it is just such an occupational health and safety risk to have those people there. That means: what do you do with the chickens that have been collected and are waiting? But, fortunately, in the case of processing plants, they do have contingency arrangements for delays in processing. If the delay is not too extensive and processing can start again within a couple of hours then their existing contingency plans can manage that perfectly adequately without any animals being hurt. However, if the occupation went on for significantly longer and it was a very hot day, then you would start to see impacts on the birds because it's just beyond their capacity to be able to manage that with the large number of birds already being collected ready to be processed.

Senator CHANDLER: One final question—Australian Dairy Farmers talked about the audit processes that you have in place to ensure transparency in your industry. Are there any specific examples of practice improvement that have resulted out of those audit processes? And do the other industries, pork and chicken, have similar self-regulation processes in place to ensure that the industry continues to operate effectively and transparently?

Mr Tessmann : I think the actual processor auditing that goes through Safe Food and the many changes that we've seen—from tail docking and the reducing of induction of cows, through the better housing of calves and the treatment of calves to the processes around selling younger cattle and calves, which are all documented—are all improvements that are tied into that auditing. It's where you actually have an independent person come on the farm and look at the facilities, look at the processes—it's all written down and documented. Clearly, that makes a huge improvement in animal welfare, or ensures that there's continuing improvement to it, along with improving the biosecurity of the place, which is of course another issue on dairy farms with farm invasions. All that's documented as well—everything from cattle trucks coming on and off—so it improves animal welfare. It improves food safety and biosecurity. So that's a continuing positive for the industry.

Ms Kerr : The Australian pork industry has the Australian Pork Industry Quality Assurance Program, APIQ for short, and that covers about 90 per cent of production. All of those farms are audited once a year by an independent AUS-MEAT auditor—that's point No. 1. Point No.2: we have the Aussie Pig Farmers website, which is our public-facing transparency website, which gives a very honest and open look at the industry. Anybody is free to go onto that website and have a look at our industry from birth right through to processing. The third thing that I would note is: our industry took the decision in 2010 to voluntarily phase out the use of sow stalls during pregnancy—they're the stalls that pigs are in during pregnancy. Today around 80 per cent of sows are housed in groups from five days after mating to one week before farrowing, and that is a world-first initiative. It's only matched by mandatory regulation in the UK and New Zealand. Even the EU, which has pretty high animal welfare standards, won't meet that. They've got a maximum of four weeks in the sow stall. As a voluntary initiative, that's been a significant outcome for our industry, and we've asked jurisdictions to review our model code into the new standards and guidelines. No doubt that will all be discussed as part of that and whether we move that into a mandatory arrangement.

Dr Kite : In the case of the chicken meat industry, all of our major participants, representing probably in excess of 90 per cent of production, are audited, have third-party auditing, which includes animal welfare. About 80 per cent of all chickens that are produced are audited either under the RSPCA or Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia programs and the standards that apply to them. They are also audited for animal welfare by some of their major customers. So there are multiple levels of auditing against animal welfare standards.

In addition, about 10 years ago we encouraged all of our federation's members to put in CCTV surveillance in the live bird area in their plants. That is available where anyone challenges anything that is going on in their plants. Increasingly, surveillance of other high-risk periods of activity in chicken farms is being implemented as well.

Senator VAN: A number of submissions to this inquiry have said that farm invasions do not pose any biosecurity risk because the people invading the farms wear single-use plastic suits. Does a plastic onesie provide sufficient biosecurity protection?

Ms Kerr : The simple answer is no, it doesn't. If those people have been walking through a paddock that, for example, feral pigs have been in contact with—African swine fever is a significant global disease, and just needs contact. So if they have been in contact with grass or soil where the ASF virus is they carry that into the piggery. That is a stark example. And biosecurity is not the decision of activists; it is the decision of the farm manager. He needs to ask questions. He needs to ascertain where those people have been. For example, have they been on another pig farm? Do they have pigs at home? Do they have a pet pig at home? The farm manager will make a judgement call on the biosecurity risk based on that. They don't do that it in isolation; they set those rules up in consultation with their vet to make sure their herd remains biosecure and that the visitor doesn't present a risk of introducing diseases whether endemic or exotic.

We had three piggeries invaded in Queensland a number of years ago. Two of those piggeries had breakouts of Mycoplasma pneumonia after being free of it for 30 and 40 years respectively. Once they knew they had been invaded they checked the dates and it matched up. While you can't do any scientific investigation tying that to an introduction, circumstantial evidence points to it having been introduced by the activists. So activists do actually create problems.

Dr Kite : Biosecurity is way more than just putting on a bit of protective clothing. We have really strict biosecurity protocols that cover all sorts of things—for example, making sure that anybody who visits a farm has to declare that they haven't been in contact with animals or birds at home or anywhere else within a stand-down period; making sure they have had a stand-down period after they have returned from overseas; and making sure they have a stand-down period if they have had recent gastrointestinal disease or flu-like symptoms. It is really very extensive. The act of putting some protective clothing on does a little bit but it doesn't do enough.

I would like to draw your attention to one particular example we had. This occurred in September 2018 at a chicken farm on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, and I think it goes to the heart of activists paying lip-service to biosecurity measures. We had a group of approximately 70 activists arrive in the early hours of the morning in the back of a rented furniture van—and I'm sure they got there illegally unless there were seatbelts in the back of the furniture van. They then dutifully filmed themselves and made footage available, including to the media, of them piling out the back of the van and pulling on protective gloves and masks—wearing protective equipment. That looked pretty good. Subsequently, you saw them wearing protective booties. Again, this material was all provided to the media. Notably the photos and videos that were recorded by the group themselves once they got inside the barns, and shown on national TV, showed some of them variably adhering to these measures—I think they'd forgotten about it. Some of them had their gloves on; some of them had their gloves off. And they're handling birds. Some of them had their masks on; some of them had them off. I think, for a start, they're probably not experts on biosecurity, and it's appropriate that experts determine what those biosecurity measures are and that they be strictly enforced and adhered to.

Senator VAN: To follow up, these forms of invasion obviously present biosecurity risks to your animals. Are there biosecurity or other risks to your workers?

Ms Kerr : There certainly are. Zoonotic diseases probably come to mind. If pneumonia or flu is introduced to the pig herd through an activist, then the producers and their staff are actually at risk of also contracting that from the pigs. So zoonotic diseases are the risk for our industry.

Dr Kite : Exactly the same for the chicken industry. There are a number of zoonotic diseases that could be brought in and picked up and spread in the chicken flock and put at risk not just people working with the birds but also the broader community that end up eating the product.

Senator VAN: Just briefly, I assume that, other than disease risks, there are physical risks that could occur?

Dr Kite : Yes.

Ms Kerr : Yes, exactly. A 300-kilogram sow with some piglets is not a very happy person, or happy pig, if you're trying to pick up her piglets.

Senator VAN: Thank you very much for your answers.

Senator McMAHON: Continuing with the biosecurity theme, the poultry, pig and dairy industries have some of the most rigorous biosecurity practices across Australian agriculture. Could you detail what the potential impacts to your industries, not individual enterprises, would be from a serious biosecurity incursion—say FMD, ASF et cetera?

Dr Kite : We can probably all start—we could all jump in on this one! We have had experience of avian influenza in Australia—fortunately not in the chicken meat sector, but in the poultry sector, so, therefore, we have been affected. The last of these incidents was back in 2013, so we're now more than six years down the track. We, as an industry, are still paying back the Commonwealth for our share of the cost of that. They were multimillion dollar exercises to actually eradicate. Fortunately, we haven't had one recently, but it just demonstrates that it can happen. It's a highly transmissible disease. It's carried on people. It's something we don't want to have happen again.

CHAIR: We are against the clock, so let's keep it tight.

Ms Kerr : Okay. Very similarly, in addition, we haven't actually experienced an exotic disease outbreak in the pig industry. We have a naive herd in Australia. Any disease introduced into Australia will have not just an impact; it will have a severe impact on pigs that are not used to those sorts of diseases. In terms of African swine fever—which is the one that's globally being incurred in China, Asia, Europe and so on—we've just completed a piece of work looking at a disease incursion of ASF into Australia and what that might do to our industry. The report hasn't been finalised, but I'd like to table that with the committee to provide some actual economic impact analysis for you.

CHAIR: That would be helpful; thank you.

Mr Hough : I'll quickly add that there are a number of livestock diseases that we're worried about too, but the big one is foot and mouth disease. The research really says it's not a case of if; it's when. In the submission, I mentioned that the CSIRO have done some modelling on this, and they estimate a cost to the economy of around $50 billion over a 10-year period, primarily due to trade restrictions. So that would be devastating for the meat and dairy industries.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for your contributions and for taking the time to be with us today. The committee will suspend for morning tea.

Pr oceedings suspended from 10:44 to 10:57