House debates

Monday, 18 October 2010


Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation

10:02 pm

Photo of Dennis JensenDennis Jensen (Tangney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Tonight I wish to speak of enviro-nazis in the WA Department of Environment and Conservation, DEC, and how their lack of scientific rigour and simple bloody-mindedness threatens to destroy the very good Australian family business of Narrogin Beef, owned by Matt and Janet Thompson. Matt is a previous chair of the WA Lot Feeders Association. The Thompsons have a feedlot operation which, according to Barry Carbon, former EPA chair, is brilliantly run and the best he has ever seen.

In 2007, following changes to greenhouse gas reporting and an open forum on the transition from the National Pollutant Inventory to national environmental protection measures, Matt circulated materials sceptical about anthropogenic global warming. The DEC decided to attack the Thompsons’ business. They had the Environmental Defender’s Office brief some residents in proximity to Narrogin Beef on how to take action against the Thompsons.

At the time, the Thompsons had approval to build a feedlot that would run 15,000 head of cattle, and the DEC cut this back to 6,000 pending the setting of various conditions. Six thousand head of cattle is uneconomic, something the DEC were very much aware of. According to Barry Carbon, this was a conscious decision to send the Thompsons broke. The Department of Agriculture and Food set up an independent odour trial, the most comprehensive ever undertaken in WA, which took place over a period of 15 months. Despite finding that the odour emissions were acceptable, the DEC ignored the advice. The minister set up a local community consultative committee under Barry Carbon which, after exhaustive consultation, found that the feedlot was extremely well run and had no unacceptable odour issues. Once again the DEC rejected this advice and came up with a set of conditions that had to be met for the Thompsons to increase their feedlot operation to 10,000 head.

The odour conditions, among other conditions, stated that:

  • The licensee shall ensure that odour emitted from the premises does not unreasonably interfere with the health, welfare, convenience, comfort or amenity of any person who is not on the premises.

I have pointed out to the minister’s office that if these same conditions were placed on noise standards it would result in the closing of every highway, freeway and airport in WA. Indeed, the Department of Education in their submission to the DEC stated that there should be objective measures put on odour requirements. The Thompsons and I agree with this—an objective standard would be fair to all concerned. As it currently stands, the National Australia Bank says that it has problems as it believes that the requirements, given the lack of objectivity, constitute too much of a risk as the number of cattle could be cut back to 6,000 head again on a whim.

I have had dealings on odour issues with the DEC regarding the south metro recycling centre in my electorate, and I similarly found them to be completely unprofessional and unscientific in my dealings with them. They are, quite frankly, inept, intimidating bullies who take their power to extremes and they need to be heavily brought into line when it comes to acceptable behaviour and acceptable practice—never mind world’s best practice—when it comes to odour emission standards. I implore the minister to pull this errant department into line and remove the odour conditions from the conditions placed on the Thompsons until such time that objective, scientific, world’s best practice standards are implemented by this incompetent department.