Outspoken Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie is threatening a crackdown on halal certification, linking the fees paid to funding terrorism in a Senate speech on Tuesday night.
Halal food is prepared according to Islamic law and is similar in religious philosophy to the Jewish practice of kosher food.
Senator Lambie said she will look at introducing a private member’s bill to prevent “halal money” funding Islamic State.
A Facebook campaign called “Boycott halal foods in Australia” targeting major companies with halal certification, including Vegemite, Four ‘n’ Twenty pies, the Byron Bay Cookie Company, Nescafe, Colgate and Western Star Butter has been growing momentum.
The Facebook page has been running for more than two years and claims halal fees are used to “fund Islamic expansion by any means”.
Last year, the Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company dropped its halal certification, losing a $50,000 contract with a Middle Eastern airline, in the wake of pressure from the social media campaign.
Last year, Nationals MP George Christensen wrote a column that linked buying halal products to funding Islamic terrorism.
Halal certification in Australia is done by a range of accredited religious organisations, from private for-profit businesses to peak Muslim groups that use the money raised to help their local community. The certification offers new markets to Australian exporters and is worth an estimated $1.5 trillion globally. There has been no evidence that any funds in Australia have been misused.
In response to the claims, the Australia Food and Grocery Council says:
“Organisations who offer Halal certification services are subject to the same prohibitions on funding illegal entities and activity as any other organisation or individual under Australian law.”
Last night in an adjournment debate on Islamic State, Senator Lambie said she had received hundreds of emails in recent days asking her to “investigate halal certification as a possible source of income for Islamic terrorists”.
She commissioned a Parliamentary Library study into the laws and rules on halal certification in Australia, which she said “exposed some surprising facts”.
She asked if there as a reporting/auditing process to check halal certification fees were not misused for terrorist activities, saying the answer was no.
There was no legal requirement for the fees charged to be disclosed, she said.
“Even more disturbingly, the library’s brief goes on to state: As halal certification is undertaken on a purely commercial basis, there is no formal reporting or auditing mechanism to ascertain whether monies paid for certification are misused,” Lambie said.
“Given that our enemies in the Islamic State, by all reports, are receiving a steady cash flow to control their caliphate in Syria and Iraq, why isn’t there a legal requirement in Australia for halal certification fees to be disclosed?
“Given that our nation is on high terrorism alert while hundreds of Australian Islamic State sympathisers are fighting our Australian Defence Forces in Iraq, why is there no formal reporting or auditing mechanism in Australia to ascertain whether moneys paid for halal certification are misused?”
Lambie said that she would be “forced to introduce a private member’s bill which closes these legal loopholes that could allow financing of terrorists and Australia’s enemies through halal certification moneys” if the Abbott government did not act.