Cattle Council works toward one restructure model

James Nason, 18/10/2012

The Cattle Council of Australia is meeting in Brisbane today to discuss its reform options after a key restructure meeting fell short of achieving consensus on a preferred model yesterday.

A central aim of yesterday’s meeting in Brisbane, which involved the full CCA board and several key industry stakeholders, was to identify which of three proposed restructure frameworks, or hybridisation of models, should be used to represent the grassed cattle industry in future.

While the mood for restructure in the grassfed sector is strong, opinions remain divided over which model presents the best way forward.

Agriculture minister Joe Ludwig has made it clear that there is a far greater chance the Federal Government will support an industry reform plan if leaders can demonstrate a “unity of purpose” or strong consensus in support of one restructure pathway.

The meeting did not achieve a definitive outcome on which model should be taken forward, but debate progressed on whether a combination of the three models presented to yesterday’s meeting could provide the answer.

Beef Central understands that a potential combination of options B & C (click here to see the three proposed models as outlined on Beef Central last week) – which has been nicknamed “Option C Lite” – gained some momentum as the meeting progressed.

Option B involves replacing the existing Cattle Council with a board made up of directly elected and State Farm Organisation appointed directors, while Option C involves an industry-wide restructure that calls for Meat & Livestock Australia and existing peak industry councils such as Cattle Council of Australia and the Australian Lot Feeders Association into one single organisation that would manage both policy development and policy delivery (more on this debate on Beef Central in coming days).

Cattle Council of Australia chief executive officer David Inall told Beef Central this morning that while the meeting did not achieve agreement on a single restructure plan, significant progress was made on a range of key issues.

He said key developments from, and issues raised at, yesterday’s meeting included:

  • Agreement that a portion of the $5/head transaction levy be used for strategic policy development; 

“Very clearly through our consultation  over the last six months and again yesterday the vast majority of producers have indicated a clear preference for re-allocating a portion of their levy to resource adequate strategic policy development.”

  • A strong view was evident that the national grassfed producer body should have more control over how the whole $5/head transaction levy is apportioned

“There is a feeling that producers want a more direct control and oversight of levy expenditure,” Mr Inall said.

“That’s not to say that people think that money has been misused, it is more about feeling like they want to have more say over how that money is spent.”

A view was expressed that all levies should come through the national grassfed producer body and then apportioned to either MLA or other service providers.

“I don’t believe that is a uniform view, but there are some with that view,” Mr Inall said. “There is serious governance required if that was to occur, so we need to assess what the costs of receiving that amount of money would be and do a cost benefit.”

  • Strong support for direct election to be a part of any future model; percentage under debate

Views currently range from those who support the concept of four directly elected members (two from the north and two from the south) joining a board which also contains State Farm Organisation-appointed directors, to others who would like to see the entire board directly elected.

  • Should SFOs have an automatic right to be on the board?

At present under the existing CCA model, only SFO representative can be elected onto the CCA board.

“We have identified and agreed that is not a sustainable model for the future,” Mr Inall said.

“We have looked at adding additional people but there is certainly an element of industry out there, and we are listening to them, that says that SFOs shouldn’t have the automatic right to be on the board

“So that is something we are grappling with as a board as to what our landing place is there.

“The overarching question asked yesterday. and one the board is again considering this morning, is that there are a lot of opinions out there which we’re listening to, but what is the best model for producers that is going to serve them well in the future?

“We accept that just being 100pc tied to SFOs is not the perfect model for the future, but how far down the hybrid track or completely directly elected is an area that we’re debating.”

  • Preferred restructure model

Mr Inall said Cattle Council of Australia would now look to develop a single structure option to deliver on the Beef Industry Strategic Plan, which is in the final stages of being completed.

He said the council also had to assess the reporting implications and the governance requirements of any options put forward.

“Once you’re a recipient of direct levy monies there is an enormous requirement on that organisation to be absolutely accountable for every cent and where it has gone," he said.

“There are some limitations – CCA is essentially a political lobby group so there are limitations as to what you can do with that money in terms of lobbying.

“You can use levy funds to advocate a view to parliament, but if the industry wanted to run a political campaign it could not use levy money for that purpose.”

The Cattle Council of Australia board will next meet at its annual general meeting which will be held in conjunction with the AGM of Meat & Livestock Australia in Fremantle in mid-November.

Mr Inall said the restructure issue was becoming more complex the deeper it progressed into the detail.

"There is no quick or simple answer," he said.

"The Cattle Council board remains focussed to ensuring a robust process to deliver the best outcome possible."


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