Mr CHRISTENSEN: I rise tonight to table a petition regarding third-party food certification—specifically, halal certification schemes in Australia. I note that the petition, with 2,263 signatures, has been submitted to the Petitions Committee and deemed to be in order. I table the petition.
The petition read as follows—
To the Honourable the Speaker and Member of the House of Representatives This petition draws the attention of the House to a business model developed by Islamic organisation to impose ‘Halal Certification Schemes’ on all Australians. We support the freedom to eat according to religious customs. Most food is naturally permissible for Muslims and requires no additional certification. We are concerned about the disproportional growth of halal-certified products and services and the extra cost imposed on consumers. We are further concerned about gender and religious discrimination sanctioned by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, so Australian abattoirs comply with Islamic sharia law.
We ask the House to amend the Corporations Act 2001 to ensure that: 1. Products and services from halal-certified supplier are clearly labelled as ‘halal certified’ to ensure consumers can make a conscious decision. 2. Any extra cost and fees associated with Islamic halal certification are born by Islamic community organisations according to the ‘user pays’ principle. 3. No discrimination on gender or religious grounds is practised in Australian workplaces unless the employer is a recognised religious organisation. Animals in Australia (with exception of pigs) are now mostly slaughtered by Muslim males in accordance with Islamic sharia law. It is practically impossible to buy non-halal chicken, beef or lamb. All major players in our supply chains are now paying Islamic organisations ongoing fees. Halal slaughter can be seen by non-Muslims as objectionable religious rite and idol worship. We do not wish to be subjected to unwanted religious practices.
From 2,263 citizens
The petition calls on the government to amend the Corporations Act 2001 to ensure that: halal certification is clearly labelled, that costs associated with certification are borne by the certification organisations and that there is no gender discrimination in workplaces unless the employer is a recognised religious organisation.
The need to have food manufacturers clearly label products that have received third-party certification was the very first recommendation to come out of the Senate Economics References Committee’s report, Third party certification of food. It is now a year since the report, which had bipartisan support, was tabled, and we are still waiting to see if the very sensible recommendations, including clear labelling, will be implemented. Among other things, the report recommended that the halal certification industry establish a single halal certification authority and a single national registered certified trademark and that the government, through the department of agriculture, monitor halal certification and become the sole signatory on the government halal certificate.
Two of the issues the Senate inquiry uncovered were the haphazard nature of the industry and the lack of transparency. The inquiry was unable to establish how many halal certifiers were in Australia or how many abattoirs permit halal slaughter. More concerning, the inquiry could not even establish the upper and lower ranges of certification fees.
I am aware, from conversations I have had with meat industry representatives, that halal certifiers are price-gouging abattoirs and it is likely that there is corruption with overseas organisations involved, and they want significant reform to deal with this issue. And the big question: ‘Where does the money go?’ remains mostly unanswered. This is an important question to which the general public wants an answer.
In the 12 months since the report was tabled, I have had regular inquiries from people in my electorate about the outcome. Every week, I have had constituents wanting to know when the government will take action on those recommendations. And part of the reason there is such interest is the widespread concern that money raised through halal certification could—I say ‘could’—be used to fund terrorist organisations or actions that are considered extreme by the community. The Senate inquiry tried to explore this question, without a great deal of success, simply because no-one could show where the money went. I note that the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the body with regulatory responsibility for anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing, told the inquiry they had no information to indicate halal certification was linked to terrorism. But they also said they do not follow the money. The Australian Crime Commission told the inquiry they had not found any direct links between halal certification and terrorism financing, and yet evidence of an indirect link was freely available on the internet, as well as an admission as to why an indirect link was used.
Dr Rateb Jneid, the President of the Islamic Council of Western Australia, wrote in the council’s 2013 report, posted on their website but since deleted: ‘Halal subcommittee now is functional and income starts coming Alhamdulillah. Our next aim is to expand Halal certification for local and international business insha’Alla.’ He goes on to say: ‘During the year ICWA has made ongoing donations to Syria because of the difficult civil conditions. The donations were through Al Imdaad charity, to ensure that no recriminations could be directed at ICWA.’
Why would the council be so concerned about recriminations? Perhaps because organisations funded through Al Imdaad, such as Hamas, are listed terrorist organisations. Al Imdaad has supported ISIS and is directly linked to IRFAN, the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy. Although claiming to be a charitable organisation, IRFAN-Canada transferred more than $14 million to terrorist organisations, including Hamas.
More recently, in July this year, an Australian citizen was arrested in Singapore on terrorism-related charges. Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff lived in Australia for 14 years and collected the dole while supporting Islamic State on social media, trying to convince fellow Muslims to reject the democratic, secular system that was feeding him in favour of an Islamic caliphate. Shariff started the International Halal Management company and also joined Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The confusing, messy, shadowy industry that is halal certification, with its corruption, bribes and complete lack of transparency and accountability, is the perfect cover for a radical to raise money and engage in terrorist-supporting activity. This is why this petition is a reasonable request—a starting point—and why the Senate report recommendations require urgent action.
In the US from 2001 to 2008, there were 26 cases of charges against not-for-profit charities—
Source The House of Representatives Parliament of Australia, Transcript: Halal Certification