Australian politics

Nov 23, 2017

Corruption in the NT – meat, maggots and backhanders – the 1982 Royal Commission Into the Australian Meat Industry

The really disturbing feature of these revelations was that the people concerned were not evil - many of them would have been regarded as reliable and effective officers. They were ordinary Australians, in positions of some responsibility, who were either demanding, or at least accepting, clearly improper payments which could only have the effect of compromising them in the performance of their duties.

Bob Gosford — Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

Bob Gosford

Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

It is perhaps fitting that on the day that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly passed legislation to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for the Northern Territory that I present the first of an occasional series looking at corruption in the NT. Over the next few months I'll have a look at past inquiries and scandals and, of course, any of the new matters that the new ICAC examines in due course.

One day in July 1981 a meat inspector at San Diego in California became suspicious of parts of a shipment of Australian beef. On testing it proved to be horsemeat. The next week cartons marked as export grade boneless beef turned out to be kangaroo. Thus started what journalist Peter Grabosky called the great Meat Substitution Scandal of 1981.*

Its a long way from the west coast of the USA to Katherine and Tennant Creek in the NT but the bloody trail followed by the subsequent Royal Commission led straight to the chiller rooms of the small abattoirs in Katherine, Tennant Creek and other small NT towns.

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2 comments

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2 thoughts on “Corruption in the NT – meat, maggots and backhanders – the 1982 Royal Commission Into the Australian Meat Industry

  1. Bruce Honeywill

    Pulling buffalo meat out of Mudginberri & Pt Stuart in the period of interest, the TNT trailers were taken into security areas in Brisbane and rumours of ‘lid swapping’ rife regarding buff meat as part of the roo-in-the-stew scam to the US. Mind you, the buff fillets weren’t bad eating!

    1. Bob Gosford

      Bruce – thanks for your insights – I’ll get around to doing a follow-up post on this topic soon (so many things to write about, so little time!) – no shortage of references to ‘lid-swapping’ in the confidential report to this RC – it was rife in abattoirs and packing-rooms all over the country! And I agree – Buff is better eating than any of those mongrel Brahmans … I’d be happy to hear any more of your thoughts about those days.

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