Senator Cory Bernardi wins Inquiry into Halal and Kosher Certifications / May 13 , 2015

This was taken from The Guardian in Australia http://www.theguardian.com

Senator Cory Bernardi wins inquiry into halal and kosher certifications

South Australian Liberal carries Senate motion to launch investigation into food certification schemes and certifiers’ financial records
Cory Bernardi.
“It’s wise for parliament to consider all certification schemes,” says Cory Bernardi. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP

Daniel Hurst Political correspondent
@danielhurstbne

Wednesday 13 May 2015 07.26 BST
Last modified on Wednesday 13 May 2015 08.41 BST

South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has achieved his ambition to secure an inquiry into certification of halal, kosher, organic and genetically modified food.

Bernardi moved a motion in the Senate on Wednesday to launch an investigation into food certification schemes, including whether the public was given enough information about certifiers’ financial records.

Senators voted 34 in favour to 30 against the six-month inquiry by the Senate’s economic references committee. It passed with the support of the government along with six crossbenchers: Jacqui Lambie, Bob Day, Glenn Lazarus, David Leyonhjelm, John Madigan and Ricky Muir. The Labor party and the Greens opposed the motion.

Bernardi said the inquiry would not be confined to halal alone.
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“There seems to be a number of concerns about some certification schemes that are operating and in the interests of transparency and establishing the facts and being able to act in the national interest I think it’s wise for the parliament to consider all certification schemes and how they operate,” the conservative backbencher said.

“I keep getting told any number of things about certification schemes and I don’t know what’s true and what’s not true, so I want to establish the facts.”

Several high-profile companies have been targeted by anti-halal campaigners. In January, the head of one of Australia’s largest certifiers launched defamation proceedings in the New South Wales supreme court after a campaigner made allegations about a financial link to terrorist organisations.

The parliamentary inquiry will be asked to examine “the extent of food certification schemes and certifiers in Australia including, but not limited to, schemes related to organic, kosher, halal and genetically-modified food and general food safety certification schemes”.
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The terms of reference include labelling requirements, certification fees paid by food producers, and “whether current schemes provide enough information for Australian consumers to make informed purchasing decisions”.

Tony Abbott has previously played down calls by several members of his own party for an inquiry into halal certification.

During a visit to a halal-certified meat producer in Tasmania in March, the prime minister said he was “really pleased that a business like this is growing its exports all the time, particularly to the Middle East”.

“If we want to export to the Middle East, we have to have certain procedures in place and this is just part of exporting to the Middle East and if we want our exports to grow all the time, this is what we need to do and I think that’s what Australians want,” Abbott said at the time.

The agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce, has also warned his colleagues against against “picking a fight that we never needed to have” because of consequences for Australian exporters.

“Unless it’s halal certified, we can’t sell it. That means the whole processing line becomes unviable,” Joyce, the deputy leader of the Nationals, said last month.

“If we didn’t have the halal market in beef, that could really affect thousands of meat workers in Australia.”

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