A Queensland law firm has announced it has been instructed to prepare a legal challenge against the process taken by the Cattle Council of Australia to form Cattle Australia as the new peak industry council for grassfed Australian cattle producers.
Creevey Horrell Lawyers says it has been instructed by Cattle Producers Australia representatives to challenge the process saying aspects were “flawed” and “undemocratic”, and amounted to Cattle Council of Australia “rebranding itself as ‘Cattle Australia’ and purporting to be the new representative body for Australian grass-fed cattle producers”.
It says it will be instituting legal action aiming to “halt the incorrect process and to call out the flawed structure” and is seeking a hearing through the Supreme Court of Queensland.
Cattle Council of Australia in a written response to Beef Central (below) says the constitution of Cattle Australia was passed by a 75pc majority vote of State Farming Organisations, who represent thousands of grassfed cattle producers, along with the Northern Pastoral Group, and producers were consulted very widely to join the voting process. It says it has not yet recevied any correspondence from Creevey Horrell Lawyers and was disappointed “to have received this legal threat through the press.”
Cattle Council of Australia has been the peak industry council for the past 43 years, but has been involved in a year-long process with other groups, including Cattle Producers Australia which has initiated today’s stated legal action, to form a more representative and democratic national body for producers.
One week ago, 75pc and 91.25pc respectively of Cattle Council of Australia’s foundation members, the eight State Farm Organisations, and individual direct members who registered to vote, voted in favour of supporting the constitution of Cattle Australia.
A central plank of the new constitution is the removal of the right of State Farm Organisations to appoint their own representatives to the board of the peak industry council, and creating a board that is directly elected by the council’s producer members instead.
Cattle Council of Australia said last Monday’s result enabled the process of direct elections for Cattle Australia to get underway, ahead of CCA being formally wound up at its annual general meeting later this year, and Cattle Australia to hold its inaugural meeting.
Process faces challenge
However not all producer groups involved have been accepting of the process Cattle Council of Australia has used.
Toowoomba-based law firm Creevey Horrell issued a statement to media this morning stating it has been instructed by Cattle Producers Australia representatives Paul Wright and Cameron McIntyre to prepare a legal challenge to aspects of the Cattle Council of Australia’s process.
The Creevey Horrell Lawyers statement alleges that aspects of the process were “flawed” and “undemocratic”, and amounted to Cattle Council of Australia “rebranding itself as ‘Cattle Australia’ and purporting to be the new representative body for Australian grass-fed cattle producers”.
It states that Mr Wright and Mr McIntyre are members of the federal government-funded Grass-fed Cattle Industry Restructure Steering Committee (RSC), which was charged with the reform process to establish a new democratic Peak Industry Council to represent all grass-fed cattle levy payers.
The statement alleges that “CCA illegitimately took over the reform process in its own interest and produced a flawed and undemocratic structure with no secure funding plan for ‘Cattle Australia’.”
“Unlike the Constitution adopted by CCA, the grass-fed cattle producer Peak Industry Council structure proposed by the RSC would have given fair representation for all levy payers, whether big or small,” Paul Wright said.
“We will be instituting legal action aiming to halt the incorrect process and to call out the flawed structure that CCA appears to have devised in its own interests rather than in the interests of all Australia’s grass-fed cattle producer transaction levy payers.”
Cattle Council of Australia: Consitution was passed with support of thousands of SFO producer members
Cattle Council of Australia provided the following statement from President Lloyd Hick to Beef Central in response to the Creevey Horrell statement:
“The constitution was not just passed with a vote of direct members. It also required a 75pc majority vote of SFOs, who represent thousands of grassfed cattle producers.”
“The constitution was also supported by the Northern Pastoral Group who represent 10pc of beef production in Australia.”
“Cattle Council engaged producers in many ways to encourage turnout, including traditional newspaper advertising with Australian Community Media and online advertising with Beef Central.”
“A television advertising campaign for the ‘no’ campaign which was run by others did not see a significant turn out for the ‘no’ vote”
“Low individual turnout is seen in AGMs right across the industry and illustrates why it is so important to have a new, democratic model that producers can genuinely engage with.”
“Now is the time to unite and Cattle Australia will work with all industry members to address their concerns and ensure Cattle Australia is fit for purpose at the two-year review.”
“Our collective focus should now be to give Cattle Australia the best chance of success.”
“Cattle Council is yet to receive any correspondence from Creevey Horrell Lawyers and we cannot know if there is a case with substance until they engage with us directly.”
“We remain committed to a constructive relationship with all parts of the industry and it is disappointing to have received this legal threat through the press.”
Law firm seeking Supreme Court of Queensland hearing
The Creevey Horrell statement says a proposed constitution for Cattle Australia was passed this month, although NSW Farmers and Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia voted against the resolution.
Mr McIntyre said: “At that CCA Special General Meeting held to adopt the new Constitution there were around 45 CCA members online, 71 proxies and the CCA President – a total of 117 people. Can you believe that? A total of 117 CCA members voted in favour of adopting a CCA devised Constitution for all of us, all the 45,000 plus grass-fed cattle producers of Australia. This is not only bad; it is sad.”
Creevey Horrell Principal Dan Creevey said: “Our clients, the CPA, believe the resolution of the CCA to adopt a new constitution and rebrand itself as Cattle Australia was in breach of the RSC‘s Terms of Reference and the associated funding Auspices Agreement between the RSC and CCA. The new rebadged CCA constitution has not yet been agreed upon by the RSC, which was established to do just that. The draft constitution that has been adopted by CCA fails to encapsulate the requirements of the democratically elected Cattle Australia structure demanded by our clients and other cattle producers.
“The expenditure of RSC resources, of Government and industry origin, carried out by CCA on behalf of RSC under the Auspice Agreement and the Department of Agriculture’s Procurement Agreement, has also not been adequately supervised by RSC and despite requests, documentation supporting its expenditure has not been provided.”
Mr Creevey said he had instructions to have the matter listed for a hearing in the Supreme Court of Queensland urgently.