China beef ban could put thousands of jobs at risk, Premier warns

Queensland’s Premier is writing to the Prime Minister in a bid to stop a “full-blown trade war” with China, which she says could threaten thousands of the state’s beef processing jobs.

May 14, 2020, updated May 14, 2020
Australian beef producers have been blindsided by Chinese trade tactics. (Photo: ABC)

Australian beef producers have been blindsided by Chinese trade tactics. (Photo: ABC)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will today write to the Prime Minister and Federal Trade Minister to quickly stop a “full-blown trade war” with China, which could threaten thousands of jobs in the beef export industry.

China has blacklisted three Queensland abattoirs and one in New South Wales, citing labelling and certification issues.

Palaszczuk said the beef processing industry employs about 18,000 people in the state and if the situation escalates, 3200 of those jobs could be risk — particularly around Ipswich, Toowoomba and Kilcoy.

“What I’m really concerned about is this potential for a trade war to erupt and to damage Queensland’s exports, reputation, jobs and livelihoods,” Palaszczuk said.

“If we go into a full-blown trade war this could mean over 3200 workers impacted.

“This is really serious.”

Beef is Queensland’s largest agricultural export with processors exporting meat valued at $4.89 billion.

About 80 per cent is destined for just five countries, including Japan, South Korea, United States, China and Taiwan.

Palaszczuk said she would write to the Trade Minister Simon Birmingham and Prime Minister Scott Morrison today to get exports flowing again.

China has also signalled introducing a tariff on Australian barley, with commentators saying tensions initially arose in retaliation against Australia’s call for an international investigation into the origins of coronavirus.

“I would like this issue resolved as quickly as possible,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“This is really important, these trade ties are crucial especially as we go into the recovery process of COVID.”

‘Confident of finding a new market’

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The Australian Meat Industry Employees Union says it is “business as usual” despite China’s suspension on beef imports.

Kilcoy Pastoral Company, the JBS-owned Beef City near Toowoomba, and Dinmore Meatworks near Brisbane are among the meatworks affected.

The union’s Matt Journeaux said work was continuing at these plants but staff hoped the issues behind the ban could be sorted soon.

“They’re confident they can find a new home for their product in the short-term,” he said.

“Obviously it takes a lot of work to find a home for that volume of product.

“If this goes on for any length of time it becomes a larger issue.”

Journeaux said shift cuts and job losses were unlikely in the in short-term but would be on the table if the ban continued.

“I’m confident that this matter will be resolved sooner rather than later,” he said.

– ABC / Lucy Robinson

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