JBS Purchase of Huon Aquaculture
Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP, Tasmanian Greens (Australia)
Cassy O'Connor MP, Parliament House, Hobart, 7000 - 4 May 2022
Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I can indicate that we will be needing a vote.
The Batista brothers have long been butchers and cattle producers in Brazil, but today the Batistas, Joesley and Wesley, and their company, JBS, are Australia and the world's biggest producers of protein.
The takeover of Huon Aquaculture by that JBS meat giant in November last year was a shock to so many Tasmanians. It sent shivers down many people's spines, particularly people of the communities of King Island, and around Longford who themselves have already witnessed firsthand the grim workplace safety and environmental costs of how JBS does business. I o note that it is not just the Liberal Party but it is the Labor Party who have been absolutely silent on these issues when we raised them on behalf of those communities previously. It is truly disturbing to see how concerned they are to be flag wavers for the salmon industry at any cost, including the cost of supporting communities who have suffered grievous workplace safety instances by JBS and also environmental damage.
I want to lay out now, just how JBS is a family empire that is built on corruption and why the Government has to act to protect the workers and our fragile marine environment now before more disaster strikes Tasmania.
I give full credit to Grace Tobin and the producers of Four Corners for their excellent investigative journalism that is the backbone of the material that I will present today. Thank goodness for excellent investigative journalism. It is really at the hallmark of a functioning democracy. It is withering on the vine in Australia under the Liberals in government. There are attacks on the ABC. There are relentless attacks on any independent journalists, and there are many excellent journalists around this country who are doing good work.
I hope and will do everything I can to speed on 21 May so we can vote this federal Government out and vote in a government that will support investigative journalism and support proper funding for the ABC.
Bribery and corruption has fuelled JBS's expansion around the world, including Australia. Fifteen years ago, JBS embarked on a multi-billion-dollar global spending spree. It came right out of the blue. In 2007, it snapped up the American meat food giant, Swift Foods. The deal instantly turned JBS into world's biggest beef company. The takeover of Swift and its subsidiary, Australia Meat Holdings, also made JBS the largest beef processor in Australia. The scale and speed of JBS's acquisition expansion was breathtaking. They bought Tasman Meats and the King Island, Longford and Devonport abattoirs in Tasmania.
There have long been questions about JBS's meteoric rise and where all the money for these acquisitions came from. Their dirty deals started unravelling in 2017 during a major corruption crackdown in Brazil. The Brazilian prosecutors started to come after JBS and the Batistas themselves confessed to a massive bribery scheme; to spending $150 million on more than 1800 Brazilian officials. It is one of the largest corruption schemes ever revealed in the world - probably the largest.
Four Corners reported Joesley Batista confessing to paying kickbacks to the Brazilian finance minister to obtain billions of dollars in cheap financing from that country's public bank, the BNDES. He told prosecutors that JBS's global expansion had been made possible through bribery. A Brazilian federal prosecutor testified that JBS would not be so big if it did not receive so much money from the BNDES and that if it was not for the bribes that allowed these criminal contracts.
The stated purpose for JBS's bribery of public banks and pension funds in Brazil was to obtain capital for its global expansion. The state of Brazil was defrauded on a systemic grand corruption. To settle the charges in Brazil, JBS's parent company agreed to pay one of the biggest fines in global corporate history: US $3.2 billion. Even after that the scandals kept coming, and the brothers were soon arrested and charged with insider trading, for selling down their shares in JBS before entering into their plea deal. They were jailed for six months and banned from running JBS for two years.
This is small fry for two brothers, the Brazilian butchers, who own a company with an annual turnover now of $65 billion...