Tasmanian Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson says the federal government can compel Van Dairy to comply with agreements set out under the dairy business' sale conditions after concerns were raised over effluent management and animal welfare.
Senator Whish-Wilson's call comes after a leaked audit report from the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority showed effluent management problems were rife on VDL's farms. Treasurer Scott Frydenberg did not answer if the government would intervene on the sale conditions as concerns grow over the leaked report.
"The Foreign Investment Review Board will continue to monitor Moon Lake's compliance with conditions put it in place at the time of the Van Diemen's Land Company acquisitions," Mr Frydenberg said.
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TDIA is investigating Van Dairy, formerly Moon Lake, over effluent management systems, which the company says it's rectifying.
"There has been an issue with effluent ponds overflowing and pumps on several farms," a Van Dairy spokesman said.
"VDL is undertaking repairs to the effluent ponds and pumping systems identified in council notices. Most of the urgent repair work will be completed within the next two weeks. More intensive works that will provide a permanent solution will be completed by the end of April 2021."
The conditions at VDL have been described by former chief executives as "regulatory failure" by FIRB and authorities to hold the company to account.
Chinese businessman Xianfeng Lu bought VDL, Australia's largest and oldest dairy company, in 2016. At the time, he promised $100 million in infrastructure upgrades, including effluent systems, along with pledges to work with the Tasmanian Indigenous community and install Tasmanian-Devil-proof fencing to support healthy devil populations.
Senator Whish-Wilson, who has followed the issue since the sale was approved, said the advice he'd received was that there was an ability for the Treasurer, or the Prime Minister, to intervene.
"The Treasurer or the Prime Minister could compel the investor [Chinese businessman Xianfeng Lu] to spend the money he promised at the outset of the sale," Senator Whish-Wilson said.
Mr Frydenberg allegations regarding animal welfare concerned him but a matter for the TDIA.
At the Rural Press Club of Victoria, Nationals leader and deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack echoed sentiments the allegations were concerning but said he was proud of the government's record on foreign investment.
A TDIA spokesperson said it continued to work with Van Dairy, the EPA and other authorities on compliance.
"The TDIA advises that the most critical items listed as due by 31 March 2021 or earlier have been dealt with. The TDIA will provide continued regulatory oversight, including following up those actions which are not fully completed, and monitoring for any other issues."
Biosecurity Tasmania officers confirmed they had also visited the site in relation to animal welfare concerns, which is not the jurisdiction of the TDIA.
The spokesperson said officers will continue to have regular on-ground presence at the farms to conduct animal welfare checks.