CCC report concludes Murdoch University’s livestock manager puts biosafety at “serious risk”

Written by Javed Iqbal

“Serious misconduct” by Murdoch University livestock manager Kim Thomas has been revealed in a report by the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) presented in the WA Parliament this week.

The CCC investigation was launched by Thomas’ behavior following reports of continued non-compliance with biosafety requirements.

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

It turned out that Thomas changed the ownership registers for cattle owned by Murdoch University to indicate that the cattle were owned by another party, and then changed the records back.

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

Profile of an elderly man with graying hair in a suit talking to journalists
John McKechnie believed that “personal aggrandisement” was the motivation for Mr Thomas’ actions.(ABC News: James Carmody)

While the economic benefit obtained was “not enormous,” Mr McKechnie said Mr Thomas obtained recognition through his misdemeanor.

“He wanted to exhibit cattle at the Royal Show, which were in fact Murdoch cattle, but claimed they were his.

“He regularly won the award for Illawarra cattle, which he mistakenly claimed was his, but in reality was Murdoch University cattle, so Murdoch missed out on any recognition that could have been.”

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

Regardless of the recognition or the economic benefit, Mr McKechnie said the “very serious” breach of biosafety was the CCC’s main concern.

The report said the study was conducted primarily because of the suspected biosafety risks.

“The biosafety rules are there for a good reason and that is to protect Australia’s reputation and protect Australia’s crew,” he said.

Students walk past Murdoch University Library at dusk.
Murdoch University’s lack of governance created fertile ground for fraudulent behavior, the CCC report found. (Delivered: Murdoch University)

Rolling spot for offense: CCC

Murdoch University operates four farms with expenditures in 2020 totaling close to $ 1.2 million and an income of less than $ 265,000.

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

Sir. McKechnie said in the CCC’s view that the university’s lack of leadership and governance contributed to the abuse.

“He had many supervisors, none of whom knew much about the farm, he was no doubt efficient in the farm, so they left him alone.

“In their honor, when this became known, Murdoch hired consultants and works with those consultants to put in place proper management and processes.”

Cattle on a farm
CCC Commissioner John McKechnie QC said Mr Thomas’ actions put Australia’s cattle heard in grave danger.

The university disagrees with the results

Murdoch University Vice Chancellor Andrew J Deeks rejected the CCC’s claim.

“The university does not agree that a ‘group place for abuse’ was created,” Professor Deeks said in a statement.

“Rather, this appears to be a situation where a trusted employee did not act with the levels of integrity and professionalism expected of him.”

Professor Deeks said the situation was “disappointing”.

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

Thomas declined to comment.

A spokesman for the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Department said the traceability and biosafety of livestock had “never been more important than it is at present”.

“It is important for all people involved in the livestock industry to ensure that their obligations are properly understood and fulfilled.

“Failure to comply with these statutory obligations endangers our livestock industry.”

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Javed Iqbal

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