Federal agriculture minister and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has taken aim at the anti-halal lobby and fellow MPs over one of their central claims – that consumers are paying more for food that is halal certified.
Critics of the Islamic certification of food claim that the money paid for it funds terrorism, and also describe it as a “religious tax”, arguing that non-Muslims are being forced to pay more for their food as a result.
The protests have attacked leading food brands such as Sanitarium, Kellogs and Cadbury Vegemite for being halal certified, calling for shoppers to boycott the products and last week, even the Jacob’s Creek winery was targeted following mistaken rumours that it was halal.
The anti-halal movement has also received growing political support from the likes of Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie, Nationals MP George Christensen and Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, who wants a parliamentary inquiry into halal certification.
But Barnaby Joyce said today that the Australian livestock industry was heavily reliant on Muslim export markets and that the price of beef could triple and the sector would become unviable if the campaign against halal food ended.
“If we didn’t have the halal market for beef that could really affect thousands of meatworkers in Australia because we can sell certain amounts of cuts to certain markets, but other cuts go to Islamic markets and unless it’s halal certified we can’t sell them and that means the whole processing sector becomes unviable,” the minister said.
Thousands of abattoir workers could lost their jobs, Joyce warned.
“In Tamworth, there’s 4000 meatworkers from poultry, through to beef, through to lamb. You want to be really careful before putting all their jobs on the line by saying that we’re not going to participate in this range of markets,” he said
The minister said Muslim countries were strong, big and reliable markets “that stood the test of time over decades”.
“They don’t ask us to become Islamic, we don’t ask them to become Christians, we trade extremely well and we get along very well and we understand each other very well and we don’t want any unnecessary heat brought into this space because the only people who lose in this will be us,” he said.
Joyce said politicians should be wary of backing senator Bernardi’s inquiry into what the South Australian calls the halal “racket”.
“We don’t go off on a tangent here and start to with our nearest neighbours and some of our best trading partners, picking a fight that we never needed to have,” Joyce said.
The global trade in halal foods is worth an estimated $1.5 trillion and around $2 billion to Australian exporters.