Former Cattle Council of Australia president Greg Brown has launched a campaign to put forward a resolution at this year’s MLA annual general meeting calling for a “genuinely independent” review of the levy-funded service delivery company.
Mr Brown is seeking to secure 100 signatures from grassfed levy payers to support his bid to have a member’s resolution accepted for consideration at this year’s MLA AGM, to be held in Fremantle in November.
In a letter sent to a network of cattle producers last Friday, the North Queensland cattleman said there has not been a truly independent review of the organisation or its performance since MLA’s inception in 1998.
“To genuinely assess MLA’s performance I believe an independent review is critical,” Mr Brown said, asking for support from MLA members to have the resolution accepted as an agenda item.
The proposed resolution reads:
“That the members of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) support the appropriate alterations, as defined in the explanatory notes, to MLA’s Statutory Funding Agreement (SFA) to ensure that future reviews of MLA are genuinely independent. This process must require the consulting firm to be externally selected and the terms of reference to be established in consultation with a wide group of levy payers, Peak Industry Councils and others with specific skills. This review will also require a process to ensure that recommendations are suitably actioned.”
It contains the following explanatory notes:
- The funding agreement between the Commonwealth Government and MLA currently places the role of engaging a review company and setting the terms of reference for that review in the responsibility of MLA (in consultation with the DAFF Secretary).
- This contradicts the Peak Council’s role, as defined in the Red Meat MOU “to assess performance of services delivered by MLA or arranged by MLA to be delivered by other persons towards achieving the goals identified in MISP”.
- This resolution proposes changes to the SFA so that:
- Determining the company that review’s MLA; and
- Setting the terms of reference for the review of MLA;
- Presenting the report to DAFF & the Minister with recommendations;
- Would be the responsibility of MLA’s 3 peak councils (in consultation with DAFF Secretary);
- The three peak councils (forming a Review Reference Group) would be referred to in the Deed of Agreement with the commonwealth and would be required to ensure appropriate consultation with the Secretary, Minister and MLA during the review process. This will ensure a truly independent review.
Mr Brown raised his concerns about the independence of MLA reviews and the board selection process on Beef Central last month.
The cut-off date for resolutions to be considered for acceptance at this year’s AGM is September 14.
Meat & Livestock Australia managing director Scott Hanson said MLA encouraged anyone considering the lodgement of a resolution to contact the organisation in advance to ensure it was in line with the requirements of the Corporations Act and MLA’s constitution, and to discuss whether it is likely to be considered appropriate to be put in front of the AGM for members to consider.
He said the Corporations Act and MLA’s constitution dictated that AGMs could consider resolutions from individual members in a specific and narrow band of topics, which included resolutions relating to board director selection or removal, or constitutional changes.
Mr Hansen said he believed the intent of the resolution – to increase the engagement of peak industry councils in the independent review process MLA was required by Government to undertake as part of its statutory funding agreement – was consistent with the organisation’s desire for increased engagement with industry councils.
However, as the resolution did not deal with constitutional issues or board director selection or removal issues, and was about amending a contract that MLA has in place with the Federal Government, he said he “was doubtful as to whether it would be deemed eligible content for the AGM”.
He said he believed the resolution was likely to be more appropriate for the AGMs of the peak industry councils in November, and, if supported, it could then be brought forward by peak councils for MLA to consider at a regular board meeting.
“I’d be encouraging the proponents to talk to anyone of the peak industry councils, to MLA or myself regarding their current resolution,” Mr Hansen said.
“I don’t think it is something that is out of step as to what we would consider as an enhancement to the review process.
“It is something that doesn’t need to be captured in a statutory funding agreement, it is probably something that can be captured in other mechanisms between peak councils and MLA.
“It is something we could work through with the supporters of the resolution and to talk to them about what might be the most appropriate way to achieve the intent out of this.”
Mr Hansen disagreed with the assertion that previous reviews of MLA had not been independent.
Mr Hansen said a number of reviews had been undertaken by MLA under its Statutory Funding Agreement with Government, and the performance of all Research and Development Corporations had recently been reviewed by the recent Productivity Commission – reviews that all peak councils had also participated in.
He said agencies proposing to conduct reviews had to be shortlisted with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry before being selected to conduct a review, and were not allowed to have conducted substantive work for the RDC in the previous four years.