News

Cattle Australia model can transform producer advocacy: Littleproud

James Nason, 24/03/2022

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Nationals Senator Susan McDonald with this year’s intake of Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association Georgina Pastoral Company Future NTCA program participants in Darwin this morning, along with NTCA chief executive officer Will Evans (left) and executive officer Romy Carey (right).

THE Australian cattle industry is on the cusp of achieving a reform of national producer representation that has been sought for decades, and one that has the potential to transform the effectiveness of the sector’s advocacy and power, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says.

But he has also sounded a warning that the industry should not let the “pursuit of perfection” get in the road and derail the progress that has been made by industry representatives to create a new representative platform for all levy paying cattle producers.

“What I would say to the industry now is once they’re presented with what this committee has been able to achieve, I think they need to understand they shouldn’t let the pursuit of perfection get in the road of what will be a significant achievement,” Mr Littleproud said in an in interview with Beef Central in Darwin this morning.

There have been multiple attempts to reform national cattle producer representation in Australia over the past decade in response to criticisms that existing structures do not adequately represent the interests of all levy paying producers, or do not allow the large sector to speak with the power and influence its size and scale warrants.

Several months ago Mr Littleproud re-instigated the reform process with Cattle Council of Australia and Cattle Producers Australia and representatives of other producer groups in a bid “get on with the job” of delivering a reform producers have long said was necessary.

That process has resulted in the development of the proposal of a new organisation to be called Cattle Australia to replace Cattle Council of Australia as the peak industry council advocating on behalf of Australian cattle producers from July 1 this year.

Cattle Australia will be overseen by a nine-person Board of Directors, seven of whom will be democratically-elected Directors, who will in-turn appoint two skills-based Directors. All directors will then elect a chair.

The board will be supported by a Policy Advisory Council comprising 15 directly elected levy paying producers from identified Meat & Livestock Australia Regional Advisory Council regions and eight State Farming Organisation (SFO) representatives, appointed by their respective SFO, with oversight of an Independent Chair.

A consultation process is now under way for producers to have their say – See more on the Cattle Australia website here

Mr Littleproud paid tribute to the work of the industry representatives in developing and progressing the Cattle Australia concept – an achievement he said was in some ways akin to “achieving peace in the Middle East”.

“I think we’re on the cusp of achieving something the industry has wanted for probably 40 years,” told Beef Central.

“My job at times is probably to give some tough love but to clearly define the parameters of how this could happen, and I have got to say the industry themselves have taken the ball up and done much of it themselves.

“I have got to say to Markus Rathsmann in particular, the previous CCA chair wouldn’t have a bar of it, Markus has had the courage and conviction to go forward with it again, and the CPA (Cattle Producers Australia) came back to the table.

“I think this is something the industry needs.

“What I would say to the industry now is once they’re presented with what this committee has been able to achieve, I think they need to understand they shouldn’t let the pursuit of perfection get in the road of what will be a significant achievement.

“They should be within the tent trying to get that perfection over time rather than sitting on the sidelines knocking.

“If you don’t have a peak body, one single voice that walks the halls of Canberra, that fragmentation means that politicians don’t then have to listen to them.

“This is something that I think is very close.”

Mr Littleproud met with industry representatives in Darwin yesterday who have travelled to the NT capital for the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association conference on Friday.

He said groups are working together to enable Cattle Australia to be in place and operating by July 1.

MLA had agreed to play a role in ensuring all levy payers are informed about the Cattle Australia proposal and have the opportunity to have their say, he said.

Funding

The process of transitioning CCA to Cattle Australia will be supported with the $500,000 of Government funding that was originally announced to support this process by then agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce back in 2017.

Additionally there have been discussions with RMAC around generating an advanced payment of Cattle Council of Australia dividends to support the process.

Going forward, Mr Littleproud said it will be up to the new organisation to show to levy payers that there is value in them becoming paid members of Cattle Australia.

“They (Cattle Australia) will wield a fair bit of power in terms of corporate attractiveness,” he said. “It represents a significant portion of the red meat sector, when you think that supermarkets and a lot of suppliers into the beef industry should be part of this as corporate sponsors I think there is a financial sustainability model there.

“So the stars are aligning I think. They are on track for 1 July and I think that would be an enormous achievement, one in which I think in some cases is akin to getting peace in the Middle East.”

In response to the question of whether there was any suggestion a portion of the cattle transaction levy being could be used to support a new organisation in future, Mr Littleproud said the only way the levy system could be changed is if all levy payers agree.

“There can be no change to the levy system, there is a structured process, there can only be a change to the levy structure process if the levy payers agree.

“And so that is why it is important that Cattle Australia is able to articulate not only the value proposition in terms of advocacy for people to be members, but also in terms of their financial sustainability, not just from membership dollars but also from corporate sponsorships and other means.

“That is part of the business plan they should be demonstrating to those levy payers out there that may want to be members.

“And I would encourage and would strongly encourage every levy payer to join up, because this is your one opportunity, one that you haven’t seen for over 40 years, to actually have a united single voice that can walk the halls and make a difference.”

Industry has to “get on with the job”

Asked why he has actively engaged in a process that has dragged on with division and fighting but no resolution for a decade,  Mr Littleproud said he believed it was time for the industry “to get on with the job”.

“To be honest, it was something I had a gutful of watching from the sidelines, and was sick of hearing the people say that something had to happen,” he said.

“…This was about making sure they understood the clear parameters of what they were trying to achieve and egos and that history was left at the door.

“If we got hung up on that and we get hung up on that now, this will fall over.

“I think it is something that the industry should be proud of, that we actually had the conviction and courage of these men and women to put their own reputations on the line to try and facilitate this was important.

“I think if we can achieve this by the 1st of July, I think this a moment the beef industry will look back on and say transformed the beef industry into the future in terms of its advocacy and power in remining Australians the important role they play in feeding them every day.”

 

 

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Comments

  1. John Gunthorpe, 28/03/2022

    The problem the Steering Committee face is they are trying to sell the sausage before it is on the BBQ. There are no details available, and time is in short supply to attend an electronic forum. Get the details finalised, and then travel around the countryside to sell the entire package to potential members.

    Minister Littleproud is unsure about whether levy payers want to manage the expenditure of their levy funds. When Barnaby Joyce, his current party leader, was in his role in 2014, he promised the industry he would enact the recommendations from the Senate Report for the restructure of our industry. This report was prepared after an extensive Australia-wide series of hearings from all interested grass-fed cattle producers. Recommendation 1 in the list of the 7 proposed at the time was –

    “The committee recommends that a producer-owned body be established by legislation. The body should have the authority to receive and disperse the
    research and development, as well as marketing component, of the cattle transaction levy funds.”

    Now I don’t know what else Minister Littleproud needs to understand the views of industry members on this issue. As we have pointed out many times, it is only the same as applies to the beef processors who own Australian Meat Processors Corporation as their service company. Now, they use MLA when it is appropriate to do research and marketing, but only with clearly defined projects they control and oversee. They do give other work out to other organisations and so get the best advice from the best sources. This is what grass-fed cattle producers and our members seek.
    Australian Cattle Industry Council

  2. Michelle Finger, 26/03/2022

    I am waiting & hoping to see the “Purpose Statement” amended so that “Grass Fed” is clearly front & centre of the organisation & enshrined in it’s legal structure.

    It does not matter how many times “Grass Fed” is talked about in promotional materials, I fear if it is not enshrined in official structure, it will fade to the background.

    The talk of “unifying levy payers” is very odd .. is anyone suggesting that we should dismantle ALFA (Australian Lot Feeders Association) ??!?

    I think that would be silly. I support ALFA.

    We already have ALFA, ALEC, AIMC, & we already have umbrella industry coordination & facilitation for working out inter-sector issues through RMAC.

    What we do not have is Grass-Fed producer representation.

    Attempting to represent “all levy payers” is a grievous unnecessary mistake & a betrayal of the purpose of the project.

    I remain hopeful that it is not too late to get back on course.

    Grass-fed producers deserve an organisation of our own that is dedicated to & openly proud of our own sector.

    There is no reason for anything less.

    • John Gunthorpe, 27/03/2022

      You are right Michelle and this is why some of us have been pushing for a democratically elected organisation owned by the grass-fed cattle producers for over a decade now. Unfortunately the new organisation being heavily promoted is so short on details that we do not know what we will get. The major issues are how is it to be funded, will grass-fed cattle producers control the receipt and expenditure of the grass-fed levies, will there be one grass-fed cattle producer, one vote in the elections and how is the new organisation to be managed. We are still waiting for the steering committee to pass down the tablets from Mt Sinai. Nice to hear from you Michelle.
      Australian Cattle Industry Council

  3. Andrew Rea, 25/03/2022

    Is the new peak body for Grass fed cattle only? If so how about calling it “Grass Fed Cattle Australia” or “Range Fed Cattle Australia”. Great that all grass fed transaction levy payers will be entitled to vote. Is that a vote on the new restructure before it is implemented, if so what is the voting structure?

    • John Gunthorpe, 28/03/2022

      Good questions to ask Andy. I was a member of the Industry Leaders Forum (ILF) that established the Steering Committee (SC) and I cannot answer your questions. In fact, there is little feedback from the SC as they go about their work, and we all wait for the tablets to be handed down from Mt Sinai.
      The SC have been working for 5 months on the job, and by their timetable will take another 3 months before we are any wiser on the tenants of our new advocacy body.
      There are more words unsaid by Andrew Macaulay, the independent paid Chairman of the SC, in his response below to your questions. There is no mention of how the new body is to be funded. How much will members or levy payers be asked to contribute? If it is to be a voluntary contribution, will it be an opt in, or opt out arrangement? Will it be attached to the compulsory transaction levy we all pay? Does this have Ministerial approval?
      Regarding the vote, the SC were given riding orders from the ILF that it is to be one levy payer, one vote. There is pushback in the SC for there to be a two-tiered voting structure giving control in the voting structure to the larger grass-fed cattle producers. This was voted on by the ILF last October and rejected.
      Australian Cattle Industry Council

  4. Andrew Macaulay, 25/03/2022

    Cattle Australia will be the peak body for the grassfed cattle industry. All grass fed cattle transaction levy payers will be members, and entitled to vote. This reformation will bring genuine grassroots democracy to the grassfed peak body.

  5. Andrew Rea, 24/03/2022

    Cattle Australia, sounds just like another stitch up to me. Never saw the word “grassfed” mentioned once. Do the compulsory grass fed levy payers get a vote? I bet not! There must be an election in the wind.

    • John Gunthorpe, 28/03/2022

      I understand the intention is that the new body will be established without any vote by levy payers, but they will hold a vote down the track to confirm the structure. Now that sounds like a false promise. How do you get the members to vote on the voting structure if it is already in place? No, they need to go around all members and get their endorsement to the new structure before it comes into existence.

      That takes us to the next issue. How is the new organisation to be managed? I tried to flesh this out in our last hook-up suggesting they need to be close to members and not tied to Canberra. However, there was comment that they needed to be in Canberra to get close to the pollies. Our members need employees of the new advocacy body to be close to us with employed representatives in each grass-fed cattle producing region to listen to members and take their concerns to the democratically elected directors. Queensland is the largest beef state and deserves to have the new organisation based in Brisbane. You get no traction in Canberra. Let the pollies come to Brisbane if they want to know our views on issues as they arise. Our current Minister is a Queenslander and will find it convenient to call in to the office to hear our views. MLA are working from the Valley in Brisbane.

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