Labor’s Aversion To Livestock Takes Its Toll

Labor’s Aversion To Livestock Takes Its Toll

Northern Territory Shadow Attorney General John Elferink

FOI Shows Labor Didn’t Want Mataranka Prosecutions

Victor P Taffa

The Territory Government’s failure to prosecute over the death of hundreds of livestock at Mataranka Station was prompted by self-interest and poor resourcing, according to documents obtained under Freedom of Information.

A Departmental Memo dated June 21st, 2010 to Local Government Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said the Deputy Ombudsman was ‘adamant that on the evidence obtained … this matter must go to court’.

The Memo then proceeds to outline reasons why Charles Darwin University, which owns and operates Mataranka Station, should not be prosecuted.

Under the header ‘Sensitivities’, the Memo highlights possible ‘ramifications’ if CDU is prosecuted and convicted, including:

• Possible embarrassment to Government if prosecution is forced;
• Reduced confidence in Territory Primary Production processes;
• Reluctance of Primary Producers to work with Government primary industry officers;
• The need for the Animal Welfare Authority to consider the suspension or cancellation of CDU’s license to teach or undertake research involving animals which could impact on students’ degrees;
• The effect on CDU’s national and international reputation, perhaps deterring potential students; and
• Reaction of animal activist groups.

As an aside, the memo points out there could be criticisms if CDU isn’t prosecuted.

Shadow Attorney General, John Elferink, said the Memo highlights the Government’s overwhelming reluctance to prosecute Charles Darwin University for the shocking cruelty uncovered at Mataranka Station.

“This was a Government looking for ways not to prosecute itself over the animal deaths at Mataranka Station.” Mr. Elferink said.

“The memo obtained under Freedom of Information shows a Government desperate to avoid prosecution at all costs and to cover-up the cruelty at a Government operated facility.”

“The Government was hell-bent on minimising the damage to its reputation and to Charles Darwin University’s status and image ahead of delivering justice in relation to one of Australia’s worst ever incidents of animal cruelty.” Mr. Elferink said.

“In 2008 a private operator was successfully prosecuted by the Government in relation to the deaths of hundreds goats in the Northern Territory.”

“The Government has no problems prosecuting private operators, but is somewhat more reluctant when it comes to prosecuting a statutory body.” Mr. Elferink said.

A separate document obtained under FOI indicated its Animal Welfare Branch lacked the resources to ‘investigate the matter within the required timeframe’ and would ‘need to contract additional assistance’.

“In other words, even if this Government had the desire to prosecute over the animal welfare deaths, any investigation would have been hampered through Poor Resourcing.” Mr. Elferink said.