Many of us are struggling to complete our tax returns at this time of year. There is one insidious tax which we need to deal with however and this must be submitted by 31st of July. The cut off date for submissions to the Halal investigation is July 30th.
It is important that we make our feelings felt as this is our chance to make some important changes. How these submissions are written is important because a badly worded one is more harmful than none at all. I have therefore laid out a few facts and guidelines to help people who wish have their say.
The first thing to understand is that there are a number of powerful groups watching this process very carefully. I will list these groups with their concerns below:
1. Halal certifiers and extremist Muslims: these guys are raking in the money and have powerful friends. Whatever you say, they will oppose you so we can ignore their point of view.
2. Moderate Muslims: Surprisingly uninformed, they tend to listen to their Imams for advice. If careful however, we can blunt their criticism and even turn it around.
3. The farm lobby and National Party: these guys are making billions a year in exports and a ban on halal would decimate many rural areas.
4. The Jewish Lobby: a very powerful group, observant Jews are incredibly attached to their kosher food. They are concerned that a ban on halal may be extended to kosher and are prepared to hop into bed with the Muslims to stop this happening.
5. The animal rights lobby: Many of these people are socialists and greenies who are supportive of Islam and Muslims. This is a handy wedge issue if used carefully.
There are too many wealthy and powerful groups who do not want to see halal banned altogether. Whatever your feelings on the issue, it just isn’t going to happen. However, as my Great Aunt Nell used to say, “There are more ways to kill a pig than just strangling it”.
If overseas markets wish to impose conditions on Australian food producers to process foods in a certain way then so be it. Those costs will simply raise the price of the exported food.
The main problem with halal as most of us see it is that non-Muslim Australians are being forced, or conned, into paying extra so that we can eat halal. Many of us have a number of issues with this situation.
This money could be funding terrorism or it could be funding mosques and Islamic expansion. Whatever your views on the rights or wrongs of these issues, they are not likely to be the concern of this inquiry.
What we can argue strongly, is that as Australian consumers of food, we have a right to clear and accurate information about the food we are consuming. Food producers are obliged to clearly label their products with such information as:
• Whether there may be traces of nuts
• How many calories they contain
• How much fat they contain
• How animals are treated in the course of production (free range eggs etc.)
As consumers, we absolutely should have the right to know whether we are buying a kosher or halal item because:
1. We may be paying more than we have to
2. It may be violating our religious sensitivities
3. It may be violating our beliefs about animal welfare
The first issue is extremely important because if (as we surely are) we are paying more than we have to, then halal certification amounts to a hidden tax. Only the Australian Government has the right to levy taxes in Australia and this practice should be forbidden on those grounds alone. In fact even the Government stepped back from taxing foods when it introduced the GST.
Foods are one of the few items exempt from GST under Australian Law.
By arguing for clear labelling, we can kill the halal scam dead in the water. Consumers will boycott halal in droves when they are informed. That is why food producers either hide halal labels or refuse to attach them. If halal foods are separated altogether, how many people will be shopping in the halal isle of Coles or Woolies?
Companies will still be free to produce separate products for export or specialty shops. The cost of these will then be borne by Muslims. Importantly, this placates both the Jewish lobby and the farm lobby. It also blunts any criticism from “moderate” (not currently extremist) Muslims who will be left wondering why they have to pay extra for a bottle of halal certified water.
When writing submissions to the commission it is important to focus on the CLEAR labelling of halal products. If possible they should be sold in separate areas to avoid creating confusion.
These are reasonable demands which will be hard to argue against, but will kill the halal scam dead in the water.
Terms of reference for the inquiry can be found
Check through these and they will give you some ideas of what will or won’t be accepted.
Submissions can be made here
The Pickering Post