Emma Gough

Legal advice sought on CSG contaminating livestock

THE risk of coal seam gas drilling affecting livestock through contaminated water supplies is "absolutely miniscule" but that has not stopped the beef industry from calling the lawyers.

APN understands that a group of peak bodies including the Meat and Livestock Association, Australian Feed Lots Association and Cattle Council of Australia sought legal advice on how liable producers could be if their meat was tainted.

Producers sign "National Vendor Declarations" - promises by the grazier to provide beef that is safe for consumption.

The fear is that beef producers have vowed to supply meat that is safe to eat, yet without the grazier knowing, the livestock could have consumed contaminated water.

After being handed legal advice, the three peak bodies were asked not to share it for reasons of "legal professional privilege".

They were told by their lawyers the information was not specific enough for general use by members who should instead seek their own advice.

AFLA chief executive Dougal Gordon said the groups needed information when CSG drilling began a massive expansion.

Although gas firms may have some responsibility in the case of water impacts, producers could still be liable.

Mr Gordon said meat safety watchdog SAFEMEAT [correct] suggested the risks were "negligible" but producers needed the information.

In some cases, landholder deals may give immunity to gas companies operating on their land.

Queensland GasFields Commissioner John Cotter said he was "acutely aware" of the issue, being a cattle producer himself.

Mr Cotter said he raised the issue of these declarations in 2012, and supported the MLA requesting more information.

The Meat and Livestock Association declined to discuss the legal advice.

Cattle Council Australia did not return calls before deadline on Tuesday.

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