Today we are debating the Australian Charities and Not-for Profits Commission Bill 2012. This bill covers a range of Australian charities, including non-government organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society, the Australian Conservation Foundation and more. Environmental activists in these NGOs have taken advantage of the significant privilege of charity status to spend large amounts of money campaigning in ways that are hurting both Australian primary producers and consumers.
This bill allows the opportunity to take a look at the activities of these tax-exempt NGOs, and in particular, how they are using their money and influence to restrict what products can be sold by Australian producers and bought by Australian consumers.
These activities include certification schemes being run or promoted by NGOs like WWF and Greenpeace in particular, under which they want to be the people with the final say on certifying was is, and what is NOT, “sustainable” in primary production and, in turn, what can, and cannot, be sold to consumers.
We find NGOs such as these more and more trying to establish certifying bodies. All they want to do is tell primary producers how to run their operations, tell you what you can and cannot do to be certified as “sustainable”, and extort money for the privilege.
In the timber industry, we have seen the Forest Stewardship Council, a body supported by several green NGOs, including the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF, certifying products.
We have seen it in the seafood industry – through a body known as the Marine Stewardship Council, founded by WWF – and we are also seeing the beginnings of a similar move in the beef industry, through what is called the Australian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, or ARSB, where again WWF is prominent.
The ultimate intent of these moves by WWF and other environmental activists involved in certification is to ensure that only goods certified under their schemes are sold through Australian retail outlets, such as supermarkets, furniture retailers, etcetera.
Of course, to have their products certified in the first place, and then have that certification renewed on a regular basis, so those products can continue to be sold to the Australian public, costs producers a substantial amount of money.
This is a very serious issue for Australian primary producers and Australian consumers. I am calling on the Treasurer to refer these schemes to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the ACCC, for investigation on the basis they could represent a secondary boycott.
I am also calling on the Treasurer to take action to amend the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to remove any doubt that the green NGOs who are threatening to instigate boycotts of Australian primary products – especially Tasmanian forest products following the collapse of talks between industry and the green NGOs – can be referred to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission under sections 45D and 45E relating to secondary boycotts.
According to the ACCC definition, secondary boycotts occur when two persons together engage in conduct that hinders or prevents a third person from supplying to, or acquiring goods or services from, a fourth person. They are prohibited if their purpose is to cause substantial loss or damage to a business, or a substantial lessening of competition in a market.
Isn’t that what is happening when environmental activist organisations collude with others to set up a body or scheme as the arbiter of what is “sustainable” and what timber wholesalers, retailers and consumers should be allowed to buy or sell or what fish or, down the track, what beef it is that people should be allowed to put on their plates?
Everyone involved in this whole process of certification, round tables and the like should consider their position very carefully. Certainly, the ACCC should examine the practices related to product certification – and especially refusal to trade in products available from producers who do not agree to pay for such certification.
Regardless of the findings of any ACCC investigation, all primary producers in Australia should refuse to have anything to do with these certification schemes orchestrated by environmental activists.
For example, in the case of the Forest Stewardship Council I referred to earlier, its members in Australia include WWF, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Wilderness Society.
ALL primary producers should look at the membership of that certifying body. What primary producer would want such a collection of radical environmentalists controlling what they are allowed to produce from their properties? No producers that I know. But this is not some far-fetched fantasy from the future. We are seeing constant pressure on timber producers and their major customers to use Forest Stewardship Council products.
While this example has nothing to do with WWF, there is a lesson to be learned from what has happened at the Triabunna Wood Chip Mill in Tasmania. It processed natural forest woodchips from sawmill residue and forest residues from Southern Tasmania. It was closed by Gunns Ltd in April last year and then purchased in July, well over a year ago, by two millionaire environmentalists. It hasn’t operated since. When, or even IF, it will re-open is not known. The storage of thousands of tonnes of waste wood that normally would have gone to the Triabunna facility has become a real issue for southern Tasmanian sawmills in recent months, with many storage areas full, and incomes down by one-third since the closure. There are concerns that some sawmills will have to close.
And does anyone believe years of harassment by green groups did not play a part in the demise of Gunns Ltd, putting so many important Tasmanian jobs at risk?
Of course, the headlines seen after the collapse of the Tasmanian forest talks last week were completely predictable. For example, this one from “The Australian” newspaper of October 27: “Green groups to resume campaign against sawmills after talks collapse”.
“The Australian” reported that green groups would resume their “war” against the Tasmanian timber industry, with the Wilderness Society for example saying it would campaign to cripple the activities of large Tasmanian sawmillers. A spokesperson said the technique it would use was to target the customers of major sawmillers. That’s an all-too-familiar pattern.
So, in the timber industry, we see green groups once again going to war against producers, launching public campaigns against sawmillers and targeting customers – and using their tax-free income to do it all with.
It would be completely naive to think these green groups won’t follow the same pattern in other primary industry areas. Of course, in the beef industry, right now, with WWF steering the Australian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, or ARSB – including McDonalds, JBS, Cargill, the Cattle Council of Australia and others – it’s completely predictable that WWF is going to try to push beef producers towards sustainability criteria and an expensive certification scheme.
I warn all primary producers, just because WWF or one of these other green NGOs is not knocking on your door right now, don’t think it won’t happen. It will. No primary producer should expect to be spared the threat of environmentalists trying to dictate how you can work your own property.
Primary industry sectors will be picked off one by one by green groups like WWF and Greenpeace pushing expensive sustainability certification schemes – unless producers stand together and tackle this issue right across primary industry.
In the case of the Australian timber industry, those industry groups and businesses that do choose to go for a certification scheme for their products at least have a choice, apart from the green NGO-dominated Forest Stewardship Council. They have the option of the Australian Forest Certification Scheme, or AFS.
AFS Limited, the company that manages the scheme, says that the majority of certified forests in Australia – more than ten million hectares – are certified under the Australian Standard 4708: The Australian Standard for Sustainable Forest Management.
AFS in turn is endorsed internationally by a body called the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, or PEFC. PEFC is an umbrella organisation. It claims to be the world's largest forest certification system, with more than 30 endorsed national certification systems and over 240 million hectares of certified forests.
Of course, groups like Greenpeace in particular are critics of PEFC. No doubt one of the aims of Greenpeace is to try to remove a commercial competitor for the Forest Stewardship Council organisation it is associated with, and leave the Forest Stewardship Council as the only option for industry. A monopoly organisation, able to impose its own standards – at its own prices – without fear of competition. That is a nightmare scenario.
And make no mistake. These certification schemes, especially those originated by the green NGOs, are expensive for producers. There are costs associated with assessments and audits and use of logos and on and on it goes, costing thousands and thousands of dollars. In Rural Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee discussions about this legislation in December, a figure of $100,000 was mentioned for the cost of certification in the case of timber.
I don’t know if that figure is correct, but what you can be sure of is that it will result in a constant stream of income coming in for the NGOs and their friends in associated businesses, like assessment and auditing. It is a very popular new business model for the green NGOs, and one they are intent on applying to more and more primary industry sectors.
What happens with green NGOs working together is seen in the forestry model, where they support one certification body and criticise their commercial competitor. It goes beyond that, well beyond that, and our primary producers can expect to be exposed down the track to what is called NGO “green mail”: that is, blackmail with a radical environmental agenda.
Former leading member of Greenpeace, Dr Patrick Moore, who has since become disenchanted with the organisation he helped to establish and left its ranks, wrote earlier this year about Greenpeace tactics: “Greenpeace is threatening name-brand retailers and manufacturers who do not agree to a Greenpeace-backed wood fibre and paper policy that gives preference to one particular forest certifier – the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC – over all other forest certification bodies.”
We have already seen green activists using exactly those sorts of tactics here. Last year, activists launched co-ordinated protests and stunts against retailer Harvey Norman. They climbed onto store rooftops and dangled from the Sydney Opera House with banners. Why? Because Harvey Norman sells furniture made from timber legally obtained from sustainable Australian forests.
Then there was the Greenpeace Facebook campaign against the Bakers Delight chain, suggesting it might soon be using genetically-modified ingredients in its bread products, generating customer confusion and concern. Greenpeace demanded Bakers Delight agree not to use GM products. Bakers Delight agreed.
What Greenpeace never told any of those “concerned consumers” was that there is no genetically-modified Australian wheat, and so Bakers Delight never ever considered using it in the first place. This was just another step in a broader Greenpeace campaign against GM products. Any damage done to Bakers Delight’s reputation or business clearly didn’t matter to Greenpeace.
Earlier this year, Dr David Pollard, chief executive officer of the Australian Forest Products Association, said his organisation was “deeply concerned” by misinformation being spread by extreme green groups to damage manufacturing and cause job losses in Australia. He referred to a group called Markets for Change, who have been telling customers for Australian wood products in Japan that PEFC certification is inadequate.
In Dr Pollard’s words, “This blatant attempt at commercial sabotage has two clear objectives: firstly, to close down a natural and sustainable industry in Australia and, secondly, to destroy the brand value of PEFC, the world's largest forest certification organisation, which currently certifies over 240 million hectares worldwide. Some environmental groups ... are on a quest to close down any industry that they take a dislike to – paying no regard to the facts (or) the science ...”
If anyone thinks Greenpeace will NOT attack the beef industry the same way it has the timber industry, well, think again.
“Queensland Country Life” reported earlier this year that action by Greenpeace led directly to cancellation of orders for JBS Brazilian meat and leather across Europe.
A Greenpeace report claimed JBS in Brazil was buying cattle raised on deforested regions of the Amazon – a claim JBS denied. Despite that denial by JBS, the British grocery chain Tesco cancelled its meat contract with JBS. Greenpeace also claimed four other JBS supermarket customers in the UK would not renew current contracts, along with the Dutch-based Sligro Food Group, plus the Swedish-based Ikea furniture chain, which was buying leather from JBS.
This is the way Greenpeace works, in cahoots with their mates in WWF.
WWF cannot be trusted. One executive from the Cattle Council of Australia, sitting at WWF’s Australian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, has used the glib expression that “if you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu”. Well, WWF still wants to carve up Australian primary producers and they have made that blatantly obvious again just recently, once again attacking the beef and sugar industries in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.
On October 2, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, or AIMS, released a report saying that the Great Barrier Reef has lost some of its coral since studies commenced 27 years ago.
One of the report’s main authors, Dr Peter Doherty, stated: “In the northern Great Barrier Reef, coral cover has remained relatively stable, whereas, in the southern regions, we see the most dramatic loss of coral, particularly over the last decade when storms have devastated many reefs.” Queensland Senators in particular will remember the devastation caused in February 2011 by the massive Cyclone Yasi and the extensive damage from another Category 5 cyclone, Cyclone Hamish, as it tracked south down the Reef in March 2009.
In fact, the AIMS report blamed the MAJORITY of the coral loss on cyclone damage and coral bleaching.
Well, what did WWF do? WWF blamed farmers for the loss of coral. In a media release on the same day, October 2, a WWF spokesman said “Revelations that chemical fertiliser pollution is driving the significant and ongoing loss of coral on the Great Barrier Reef highlights the urgent need for intervention by the Australian and Queensland Governments.”
The WWF concludes its Great Barrier Reef media release by demanding the Queensland Government take tougher action on laws to cut farm run-off. This is the very same WWF some cattle producers sit down round the table with. WWF cannot be trusted and primary producers should have nothing to do with them.
Just a week after WWF attacked Queensland farmers for single-handedly destroying the Great Barrier Reef, Australian fishermen found out what WWF really thinks about commercial fishing, especially trawling.
The International President of WWF, Ms Yolanda Kakabadse, told the Australian media THAT trawling should be banned here. She was completely unequivocal in what she said. “Australia should show leadership and ban trawling altogether” – ban trawling altogether, were her words – “to promote sustainable fishing in the region.”
Of course, there are at least three Australian trawling fleets that are paying WWF big money to have their trawling operations given sustainability certification by WWF’s Marine Stewardship Council, so the International President’s “ban trawling” statement sent local WWF staff scrambling to put some back-spin on her media comments.
But Ms Kakabadse is no novice. She is a former Federal Minister of Environment in Ecuador, and I am sure she meant what she said: “Australia should ban trawling altogether.” So, now we know the end-game for WWF International, no matter what local WWF staffers might be telling the Australian fishing industry.
I again warn ALL primary producers: address this issue now. Just because it may not be happening to your sector right now, don’t think it won’t happen. It will happen. The question is not “if” but simply “when”. In the same way that our primary producers stand together to fight fires, floods and other threats, it is time to stand together to fight the scourge of “greenmail” and the extortion attempts behind these expensive, unnecessary NGO-driven sustainability certification schemes.
And they will be using their tax-exempt income to fund it!