Pic source: ampc.com.au
The chairman of Australia's peak red meat industry body insists he has no knowledge of collusion among buyers and sellers of livestock.
David Larkin from the Australian Meat Industry Council told a Senate inquiry into the sector on Tuesday that he has never heard of colluding in the beef marketplace.
But Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie said the committee had been presented a “significant” body of evidence suggesting otherwise.
That included allegations of a boycott of a cattle sale in Barnawartha, near Wodonga, by at least nine meat processors over a dispute about the timing of weighing the cows.
The matter is being investigated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Victorian farmer Laurie Horne also claimed to have seen “shameful” collusion over the years, and that anyone who didn't think it existed had never been to a sale yard.
“We don't want to talk about it, but it happens,” Senator McKenzie said.
“And Mr Larkin, if you've been involved in this industry for 32 years and you can sit here and say it doesn't happen at the buyer end or the seller end, I think is pretty rich.”
Meat and Livestock Australia's Peter Hall said he, too, had no direct evidence, but acknowledged there had been “a lot of hearsay” in his four decades in the industry.
Mr Larkin said if there was evidence of collusion, “then that's a matter for the law to deal with”.
The ACCC's Marcus Bezzi said the competition watchdog took allegations of price-fixing, bid-rigging, market sharing and agreements around supply very seriously.
Anyone found guilty of such offences face up to 10 years in jail, he added.
“It's not something we do lightly,” he said.
Mr Bezzi noted there were provisions to grant immunity to whistleblowers and encouraged those who have got any evidence of collusion to come forward.
© AAP 2015