By Helen Bergen
The Californian government’s Fair Political Practices Commission has warned the Australian government to stop their underhand tactics to restart the trade in kangaroo products into California, Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said.
The warning letter was issued after an investigation confirmed the Australian government violated California’s lobbying laws with undeclared payments made to influence the Californian legislative process.
Californian daily newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, has described the events as ‘unsavoury foreign government interference and industry money to influence with local government decision-making’. They labelled the world of kangaroo lobbying as ‘swampy’.
“This should be a major embarrassment for the Australian government. They have been caught out misusing public money to try and influence Californian legislators,” Senator Rhiannon said.
“Response to my Senate Estimates questions provided the evidence that raised the Californian concerns.
“My questions have revealed that Australia provided AUD$143,000 to the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia (KIAA) in 2014-15 to dismantle the Californian law banning importation of products made from Australia’s commercially-slaughtered kangaroos.
“That swamp got even smellier when representatives of the Australian government and the kangaroo industry used unsavoury tactics to undermine Californian legislative processes[i] to open up the kangaroo trade into California.
“In an extraordinary move the Australians tried to convince Assemblyman Mike Gipson[ii] to gut his own gambling bill[iii] and replace its contents with the Australian-drafted bill to allow kangaroo imports. The bill was put as urgent to be considered in the last busy week of the 2015 Californian legislative year.
“It has also been reported at the time that Assemblyman Gipson and 13 other Californian lawmakers were paid $1,000 each by the KIAA/Australian Government’s lobbyists.[iv]
“There are more questions to be answered about these unethical activities.
“Why did the KIAA only file its required lobbying paperwork in June 2015, some 5 months after I first asked the question in Australian Senate Estimates in February 2015?
“Do Californian or New York legislators know that the Australian government funded John Kelly, CEO of the KIAA, $236,664 to ‘develop supportive material to back up attempts to convince Californian and New York legislators to permanently allow the sale of kangaroo products’[v] and engage the same lobbying firm Manatt, Phels and Phillips to influence Californian and New York legislators to lift the ban in 2009-2010?
“The Australian industry body KIAA engages in deceptive and at times dishonest behaviour.
“In California they promoted themselves as ‘representing wildlife management services in coordination with the Australian Government’ and ‘representing government licensed kangaroo harvesters’. They were trying to create an impression that they are a government body involved in wildlife conservation when KIAA is a business entity promoting a profit making industry reliant on the largest land-based wildlife slaughter on the planet.
“The Californian Commission stated that ‘there is no question that the Australian Government was required to file a Form as a person spending $5,000 or more to influence legislative or administrative action in California’.
“That the industry and Australian Ministers, heads of departments and diplomats were not advised by a US legal lobbying firm that undeclared lobbying payments of over $5,000 had to be declared beggars belief.
“I have identified well over AUD$8 million of public funding spent to identify and overcome consumer, political and market barriers to grow markets for just a few commercial companies.
“Australians and Californians would be appalled to know how cosy the Australian Government-KIAA relationship is and the extraordinary lengths they will go to, to manipulate decision-making.
“Australia has the shocking record of causing the world’s highest rate of terrestrial fauna extinctions. The Greens are working to ensure that kangaroo species are not added to this extinction list.
“Government raw survey and shooting data shows landscapes that once provided habitat for kangaroos are now empty landscapes. When you shoot slow-growing low-reproduction kangaroo species that will be the outcome.
“While the Australian government has been spared an international political incident, it has been warned by the Californian Commission that ‘the information in this case will be retained and may be used in the future should an enforcement action become necessary due to newly discovered information and/or failure to comply with the Act in the future’,” Senator Rhiannon said.
“This should serve as a warning to Californian lawmakers to stay away from supporting this unethical industry,” Senator Rhiannon added.
Contact – 0411738521
[v] http://www.rirdc.gov.au/research-project-details/custr10_KAN/PRJ-003120 and answers to Senate QoN