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CCC report finds Murdoch University animal husbandry director puts biosecurity at ‘serious risk’

‘Serious misconduct’ on the part of Murdoch University’s director of animal husbandry, Kim Thomas, was revealed in a Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) report tabled in parliament this week. Western Australia.

The CCC investigation was launched into Mr. Thomas’ conduct following reports of continued non-compliance with biosecurity requirements.

Commissioner John McKechnie QC said the investigation found “very serious breaches of various biosafety laws and rules”.

Mr Thomas was found to alter the ownership records of cattle owned by Murdoch University to indicate that the cattle belonged to another party and then re-amend the records.

“As an example, he could lend a bull to a breeder, transfer the bull’s name to the breeder, and then after, when the bull has been returned, transfer it back,” McKechnie said.

John McKechnie believed that “personal aggrandizement” was the motivation for Mr. Thomas’ actions.(ABC News: James Carmody)

While the financial benefit obtained was “not huge”, Mr McKechnie said Mr Thomas was cheered on by his misconduct.

“He would exhibit cattle at the Royal Show which were actually Murdoch’s cattle but claimed to be his.

“He regularly won the prize for Illawarra cattle which he falsely claimed to be his, but which were in fact Murdoch University cattle, so Murdoch missed out on any recognition he might have had there. have.”

Mr. McKechnie believed that “personal aggrandizement” was the motivation for Mr. Thomas’ actions.

Regardless of accolades or financial benefits, McKechnie said the “very serious” breach of biosecurity was the CCC’s main concern.

The report says the investigation was undertaken primarily because of the alleged biosecurity risks.

“The biosecurity rules are there for a reason, and that’s to protect Australia’s reputation and protect the Australian herd,” he said.

Students walk past the Murdoch University Library at dusk.
Murdoch University’s lack of governance has created a “breeding ground for misconduct”, according to the CCC report. (Provided: Murdoch University)

Breeding ground for misconduct: CCC

Murdoch University operates four farms with 2020 expenses totaling nearly $1.2 million and revenues less than $265,000.

Mr. Thomas was responsible for the operational and financial management of the farms and associated livestock.

Mr. McKechnie said that, in the view of the CCC, the university’s lack of leadership and governance contributed to the misconduct.

“He had many supervisors, none of them knew much about the farming business, he was definitely efficient in the farming business, so they left him alone.

“To their credit, once this became known, Murdoch brought in consultants and is working with those consultants to put in place proper governance and processes.”

Livestock on a farm
CCC Commissioner John McKechnie QC said Mr Thomas’ actions put Australian livestock at risk.

University disagrees with findings

Murdoch University Vice-Chancellor Andrew J Deeks denied the CCC’s claims.

“The university disagrees that a ‘breeding ground for misconduct’ has been created,” Professor Deeks said in a statement.

“Rather, it appears to be a situation where a trusted employee failed to act with the levels of integrity and professionalism expected of him.”

Prof Deeks said the situation was “disappointing”.

Murdoch University has initiated disciplinary proceedings “to address the issues identified in the CCC report”.

Mr. Thomas declined to comment.

A spokesman for WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development said livestock traceability and biosecurity had “never been more important than it is now”.

“It is important that everyone involved in the livestock industry ensure that their obligations are understood and met.

“Failure to comply with these legal obligations puts our livestock industries at risk.”

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