This week marked the final hearing for the Senate inquiry into food certification. The focus of the day was the fast growing halal certification industry that sees a huge variety of products certified as ‘approved for Muslims’.
A fee is paid by companies to make that claim and it extends from exported food and medicinal products through to soccer balls, cat food and football boots.
In the past I have referred to it as a racket and based on the evidence presented yesterday, I am not alone.
Of the many halal certifiers invited to appear only two chose to do so. Both identified the importance of certification to our meat export industries and both were scathing of some operators within the system.
The domestic certification system was condemned as rife with corruption and over-servicing whilst being described as simply a ‘rubber stamp’. The operators of these businesses were described as ‘con men’.
Halal certification has caused a number of people in the community to question why all Australian consumers are expected to contribute to Islamic religious causes in the purchase of their everyday grocery products.
It seems a legitimate question to ask and yet, for daring to voice that concern, these Aussies have been given the usual labels of racists and Islamophobes.
If the certification system in place was supporting the Catholic Church rather than Islamic causes, it would suddenly stop being a racist concern and become a legitimate question of the separation between church and state.
Such is the hypocrisy of public debate at this time. But once again the chattering elites have proved how removed from reality they are.
When even the representatives of the halal industry are scathing in their description of the practices within it, you know something serious is up.
Evidence of bribes and corruption, unethical practices and dishonest dealings were all described.
Astonishingly, the witness representing Muslims Australia stated that the financial returns lodged with the Charities Commission were not accurate when they conflicted with the evidence he provided on the day. This is despite the annual report figures being audited and having directors attest to their accuracy.
In short, it would appear that either the Senate committee or the Charities Commission have been misled.
The committee is scheduled to hand down its final report at the end of the month. I am unsure as to exactly what form it will take, but I do know how important this matter is to many Australians.
They want the freedom to support causes and ideologies that are consistent with their own values. They want to support schools, charities and businesses that represent their concerns and they want to be able to make informed choices.
That means proper and transparent labelling and a clear indication of how money collected through any certification scheme is utilised.
The Senate inquiry was an opportunity for certifiers to allay a number of misconceptions and community concerns and to detail the benefits of such schemes to the Australian community.
The fact that so many refused to do so suggests that something truly rotten lies amongst some elements of the food certification systems operating in this country.
As I said many years ago (to great condemnation from the PC brigade), it seems like a racket and nothing I have heard this week has changed my mind.
In fact, it seems that my concerns were actually understating the extent of the scam facing Australian consumers.
Time will tell if the committee reaches the same conclusion.
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