Property Rights Australia is calling for the immediate release of a report funded by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to determine beef producer liability if cattle are found to contain residues due to coal seam gas activity.
The report completed 12 months ago was never released with the consulting law firm advising that it should not be “due to the fact that it advises liability.”
Joanne Rea, chair of PRA said, “The question of liability lies heavily on the minds of cattle producers in coal seam gas areas and the reason why the research project was initiated. The non-release of this report raises so many questions starting with, “Did MLA and Cattle Council Australia (CCA) not question the validity of the law firm’s advice?Surely they have a greater responsibility to the levy paying cattle producers.”
Instead of releasing the report CCA issued a communique which suggests that having signed a National Vendor Declaration producers are liable for any contamination. Beyond the essential advice that landowners should seek professional advice the information in the communique is not fully informed or helpful especially given thenaivety of advising, “Find out about the CSG operator. It is important to be sure that you are dealing with a reputable company”
“It is unconscionable that MLA and CCA has left unchallenged the transfer of all the risks to the cattle producers and have not been diligent and proactive to find the means that producers may enjoy full indemnity from an often uninvited guest who shares the same business space,” said Mrs Rea; “Levy payers are not just PIC numbers; they are often farming families who would be devastated financially and emotionally if left exposed and subjected to quarantine because of contamination.”
Landowners who have had specialist legal advice and where precise provision has been allowed for in a Conduct and Compensation Agreement may or may not have some protection in an event of coal seam gas contamination but not so neighbouring properties.
PRA believes that landowners need to be guaranteed complete indemnity for all adverse impacts, both immediate and consequential, upon their business, land, water and assets. Landowners need the assurance that redress is not just available for the life of the resource project.
The funding and structure of MLA and CCA are subjected to the current Senate inquiry into Grass fed beef levies. At the March 10 Canberra hearing evidence was given that the majority of MLA project reports are not released. Senator Heffernan said. “Even if (those figures) are just 10pc right, if you get a research grant surely you have to account for it.”
Joanne Rea reflecting on this remark said that, “Even if it was the case that only this one report was not released with no action taken the potential ramifications for producers is sogreat, an indication that MLA and CCA have been highly negligent.”
Chair of the Senate Inquiry, WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle, remarked at the Canberra hearing, "It seems everybody is making money except the poor bugger on the land."