'Fraud' hits livestock ID scheme

A growing problem with national livestock identification (NLI) scheme fraud has been highlighted by a Warrnambool case.

Warrnambool stock agent Blair Anthony O’Toole and Koroit calf rearer Julie Gaskin have been charged in relation to a slaughtered calf that returned unacceptable high readings of an anti-bacterial medication.

Ms Gaskin was ill and did not appear in court yesterday.

Mr O’Toole claims he asked Ms Gaskin specifically about whether a calf was treated and filled out a vendor declaration to the best of his knowledge. The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) was called in after the calf was found to have medication levels.

DPI senior prosecutor Geoff Morsby said the NLI scheme was introduced so livestock could be traced after Australia lost a lucrative export market to Japan  after a carcass returned high levels of toxins.

The DPI prosecutor said fraud among farmers was becoming an issue.

Mr O’Toole was alleged to have bought 23 calves which were transported to Ms Gaskin’s home to be reared.

The calves got scours and Ms Gaskin treated them. 

One calf was allegedly dosed the night before being shipped to the abattoir — this was in contravention of the 14-day withholding period.

The DPI alleged that vendor declarations showed the calves never left their original  dairy farmer’s property but the calves were at Ms Gaskin’s property for six weeks and the necessary paperwork was not completed.

The declaration was completed on May 23 and did not reveal the calf had been treated.

The maximum penalty for each of the three charges is about $15,000.

Defence counsel Helen Shalders  said her client did not know the calf had been treated during the withholding period.

The court was told a contested hearing was expected to take a full day.

Magistrate Michael Coghlan asked Mr Morsby to look at the provisions of the relevant act to confirm if the offences had strict liability on the accused.

After the matter was stood down, Mr Coghlan said it appeared the seller ought to know but it appeared that if there was a sale the prosecution had a case.

Mr Coghlan said it appeared that it was not a defence to not know.

He said if the charge was proven Mr O’Toole would not be entitled to a discount in sentencing and could face significant legal costs.

The case was adjourned to  January 29.

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