Fresh calls to end halal ‘scam’
CORY Bernardi has renewed his attack on the halal certification "scam", describing it as an industry filled with "rogues" and "shysters" extorting Australian businesses into paying a religious tax.
The Australian Conservatives leader, who was the driving force behind setting up a 2015 Senate inquiry into the sector, said the government had refused to act on any of the recommendations from the report because of "fears of being called racist".
Speaking on Monday to 2GB radio host Alan Jones - who linked the collapse of western Sydney takeaway chicken chain Red Lea to halal certification - Mr Bernardi said he would be introducing his own bill to Parliament next month.
"We had a Senate-initiated report that came out and they couldn't identify who these domestic certifiers were," Mr Bernardi said. "There's no transparency, there's no accountability, and the only conclusion I could draw is that domestic halal certification is a racket and a scam, it is run by rogues, it is unaccountable.
"We know others have paid bribes in order to get some international concessions. It is riddled with crooks and shysters. The system is entirely corrupt."
Mr Bernardi said "many people don't want to support Islamic charities", but some products such as "halal-certified water ... don't even have a stamp on it". "We know that Islamic charities don't have the best track records," he said.
He said it was "basically extortion to say, unless you pay us a fee, some unaccredited body, we're going to claim you're racist and we're going to tell the Islamic community that you're a bad bunch of people to do business with".
"If the Catholic Church was doing it, people would be up in arms. Kosher certification [by contrast], they do that on a cost-recovery basis and they were very forthcoming to the Senate inquiry.
"The halal certifiers, they ran like cockroaches under the fridge when the light comes on.
"They made all sorts of statements and claims and what we discovered is they are perhaps some of the most unethical people in business in this country."
Despite some producers paying tens of thousands of dollars to third-party halal certifiers, the 2015 Senate report found there was no evidence that the cost was passed on to consumers through higher prices.
It also found there was "no direct link" between halal certification and terrorism funding, according to the counter-terrorism financial watchdog, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, and the Australian Crime Commission.
The report, which received more than 1450 submissions, recommended the establishment of a single, national halal certification authority and single registered certified trademark, overseen by the Department of Agriculture.
"We made multiple recommendations, the government apparently considered some of them over the last few years, they took a bill to Cabinet, the bill was rejected because of fears of being called racist," Mr Bernardi said.
"So what I've done is drawn up my own bill to deal with domestic certification and I'll be introducing that in budget week, because it is a scam."