Interview with Dee Dee Dunleavy, 3AW

2 June 2021

DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: On the weekend, there was a massive global cyber-attack on the meat processing company JBS. Now JBS is a multi-national company and the cyber-attack shut down its facilities across the world. Here in Australia, JBS has 47 facilities, including here in Victoria. So the question is, will the shutdown effect meat prices at the butcher and at the supermarket?

I'm joined now by the Federal Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud. Good afternoon Minister. Do you know- is JBS back online and processing again?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: As of today, there's limited operations in Victoria and New South Wales at their facilities and we're hoping tomorrow Queensland will start the same. So JBS have been working with us, the Department of Agriculture, to try and get themselves back up and going, and make sure they have those protocols in place around the quality assurance. That needs computer systems obviously to support to that so that we can give confidence not only to the domestic market, but also to our international trading partners.

DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: How big a player is JBS in Australia's meat industry?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, JBS accounts for around 26 per cent of the red meat processing sector as well as some pork, so they're a significant part of that, of that supply chain. And it's also important to understand it's not just JBS that's impacted by this, it goes right back to the farm gate and obviously they're working as hard as they can to make sure that there's continuity in that supply chain. But they are a significant portion of the red meat sector here in Australia and a significant employer as well.

DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: So I suppose what most people are thinking is, will there be a rise in wholesale meat prices and will that be passed onto us at the retail level, at butchers and supermarkets?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: We don't expect so. We think, depending on the only caveat being on that depending on how long they aren't at full capacity. So obviously we're trying to work with them to get them to full capacity but we're expecting with the work that we're doing here in Australia and the work we're doing with our international partners, particularly in the United States, is to rectify this problem as quickly as we can. We think that there's little chance of there being impacts at the checkout. There's significant supplies across Australia domestically and we're still exporting around 72 per cent of our meat here from Australia.

DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: Is it just beef that's affected?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Beef and lamb and obviously also they process pork as well. So those three animals are the ones that have been impacted.

DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: Is there any indication at this stage, or have you had any information on who may have launched the attack?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Look, there's speculation out at the moment in news articles but we're not speculating. We've got meetings this afternoon in Washington with my officials and obviously law enforcement agencies in the US. We're working with them. They're the lead agency and obviously because that's where the attack took place in the United States. And the Australian arm of JBS used the same system as the United States arm of JBS so that's why we're both impacted, and the attack came in the United States. So we're not speculating at the moment, we're allowing the law enforcement agencies to work through this the way they need to.

DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: And you touched on it a moment ago, will this do any damage to the reputation of either JBS or to the Australian livestock industry?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No it won't. This is just a criminal act and obviously we're working through that to get an understanding of the extent and who's perpetrated it and then obviously we'll work with our international partners to hunt them down and to bring them to account.

DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: Alright. So just to sum up there, you're fairly confident that there won't be any effect on meat prices here?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No, we're confident that there's more than an adequate supply but obviously the longer and the more protracted that JBS are out of their supply chains, then the more pressure it puts on. But we're confident that with the work we're doing with JBS and the leadership they're showing, that we'll be able to get capacity up and going sometime in the near future.

DEE DEE DUNLEAVY: Appreciate the update, thank you very much. Federal Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud.