Joyce still considering Senate red meat inquiry recommendations

James Nason, 03/10/2017

Federal agricultural minister Barnaby Joyce says he is still considering the recommendations of the recent Senate inquiry into the consolidation of processing in the red meat sector, and will publicly respond “when all issues have been considered”.

The Senate Committee recommended, among other things, that the peak grassfed cattle industry council, the Cattle Council of Australia, be replaced with a new fully directly-elected producer representative body, to be called Cattle Australia.

In a statement to Beef Central this week the Minister’s office said the Government recognised the importance of “there being a strong and effective organisation representing cattle producers, formed by cattle producers for cattle producers”.

“The Minister notes that the Cattle Council of Australia are currently undergoing reform, an industry led process which the minister fully supports,” the Minister’s statement said.

“There have been numerous discussions between the Minister’s office, the Department, Red Meat Advisory Council and Cattle Council on the plans to improve the future sustainability of peak industry representation.

“Earlier this year the Deputy Prime Minister asked the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to discuss what options may be appropriate for government to assist the Cattle Council of Australia strengthen its ability to be a forceful advocate representing the nation’s cattle producers.

“The Department has had many discussions with Cattle Council and the Implementation Committee offering assistance to support options for reform.

“Cattle Council has committed to provide a written proposal to the Department for consideration, but that proposal has not yet been received.

“It would be pre-emptive for the Minister to make any further response until discussions between Cattle Council, the Implementation Committee and the department have been completed.”

New organisation, or revamped Cattle Council?

Cattle Council of Australia oversaw a partial restructure in 2013 by introducing a direct membership channel, which gives producers across Australia the opportunity to become a direct member of the council by paying $100 per year (plus GST). Reports to date suggest that only about 200 cattle producers have taken up the direct membership option since it was introduced.

At the same time the council expanded its board to include two independent board seats. These seats are now filled by a northern and a southern director directly-elected by all CCA members (grassfed producers who are either members of CCA through their membership of an SFO, or as a direct paying member).

Despite the introduction of two independent, directly-elected board seats, most CCA directors are still appointed by State Farm Organisations.

A common theme of producer feedback to Senate Inquiries in 2013 and 2014 surrounded the effectiveness of national grassfed producer representation. Inquiries were told that less than 20 percent of Australian cattle producers are paid members of SFOs/CCA, undermining the peak industry council’s claim to speak for all grassfed producers. This vacuum had also led to the rise of many small self-appointed groups with little or no reported membership, which also claim to speak for grassfed producers, resulting in a divided and fragmented industry voice.

In response to these concerns, CCA and other smaller producer groups agreed to a restructure plan in February 2015.

The agreed restructure centred around the establishment of a fully directly-elected board to represent all levy-paying cattle producers nationally.

The model was presented to the Minister as having the unified support of all producer groups at the time.

However, more than a year-and-a-half later, there is disagreement among producer groups as to whether the restructure should be achieved by creating an entirely new organisation, or by simply restructuring the existing peak council, the Cattle Council of Australia.

Cattle Council of Australia is believed to favour the latter option, while the various smaller groups involved in the implementation committee want a fresh start and a new body, which is being referred to as Cattle Australia.

In their latest senate report handed down late last month, rural Senate committee members left no doubt they believe a stronger grassfed cattle industry representative structure is needed and that they favour a new organisation, not a revamped Cattle Council.

The Senate committee’s decision to weigh into the restructure issue and recommend CCA be replaced as the peak industry council has brought the long-stalled restructure process back into industry attention.

The momentum for industry reform ignited by the first grassfed senate inquiry four years ago is inevitably dissipating following the completion of the latest senate inquiry into red meat processing consolidation last month. If significant restructure is likely to result, or if the status quo will prevail, appears likely come down to more behind-the-scenes meetings by industry groups in coming weeks, and their ability or willingness to compromise in the interests of achieving the best result for grassfed cattle producers.


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  1. Rod Dunbar, 06/10/2017

    Firstly, we do not think that the Minister will abandon CCA; he will continue to support them.
    Secondly, why would any organization that had the same “public official” legal status be any different to CCA? The system/structure will supposedly be the same; the Minister would appoint any new body as a Commonwealth Public Servant and direct its views and policy by the operation of section 69 of the AMLI Act!!!! Like he does now!!! Who would be the most likely personal to staff the new organization? Ex CCA personnel I should think!!
    Any organization cannot be “independent” and answerable to a private membership when the membership cannot direct it. This is why CCA has failed and its private membership has evaporated; the Commonwealth Government directs CCA through its (the Commonwealth’s) “industry” with ultimate power in the hands of the Minister.
    There can never be a private, well privately funded, popular cattle industry representative organization whilst there are Laws that compulsorily fund by a Tax, an “industry” enshrined in the AMLI Act; CCA is obtaining funding via the back door, derived from this Taxation that we cannot control, so it can sit on numerous Federal Committees and be a fake producer representative group; it is in reality representing the Federal Government.
    Would any new organization be any different? I think not; if it takes on the mantra of the MOU and there is no repeals to the legislation, there is no hope.
    From the time of the first Senate Inquiry when 7 recommendations were presented, nothing has happened; many thousands of producers have lost any faith in this Minister and his political parties.

  2. Clyde Dunn, 04/10/2017

    I agree with the Senate Committee recommendation that the CCA be replaced with a representative body elected by us, the cattle producers. The Fairfax Poll quoted in Stock Journal dated 13 September 2017, indicates that 83.3% of the respondents agree that the CCA should be replaced with a transparent and accountable producer owned body.

    The new industry body structure would, for example, mean that we, the producers, would instruct MLA on how to use the levies deducted from our cattle sales in the best interest of red meat producers.

    Thanks for your comment, Clyde. We offer a caution to readers about placing too much faith in online polls, however. They have been utterly discredited by people skilled in gauging public opinion, on any topic. It’s worth googling ‘online polls’ some time – there is plenty of credible discussion about the inherent dangers in distortion in online polling. Such polls tend to attract responses only from individuals with strong views on the chosen topic, and often only from one side. The vast middle ground never engages. Approach any result with considerable caution, is our advice. It’s why you will never read about results from online polls in articles on Beef Central. Editor

  3. John Puller, 04/10/2017

    I hope Barnaby considers the simple change for processors’ price grids to become publicly available on each processors’ website (as was recommended by the ACCC). It’s a very simple change for the processors, that would cost them very little time and effort, but would make beef producers’ lives a whole lot easier when selling cattle and finding the right price.

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