Letters to the Editor

Letter to the editor: Ashley McKay on MLA Strategic Plan 2020

Guest Author, 23/06/2020

In this letter to the editor Injune, Qld, cattle producer and former Cattlemen’s Union of Australia board member Ashley McKay OAM has raised range of issues in response to Meat & Livestock Australia’s new five year strategic plan released last week. Beef Central has flagged the issues raised with MLA managing director Jason Strong who has commited to developing a response to each group of issues over coming days to provide some additional information and in some cases MLA’s position, including the approach it is taking on a number of these issues that it has responsibility for.


Beef Central.

22nd June, 2020.

Re: MLA ARTICLE 17.6.20

The bold headline – “Double the value of Red Meat Sales by 2030”, at face value is a mixture of the ambitious, the hopeful, the confusing and bland prophecy all rolled into one package for consumption by the curious and bewildered Cattle Levy Payers – all understand the words they have read but are quite uncertain of what it means.

So, I pose the question:

  1. What will be measured.
  2. How will it be measured.
  3. Will double the price at the butcher shop or abattoir door be the measure.
  4. Will double the price of the carcase on the hook be the measure.
  5. Will double the amount of meat but at today’s price be the measure.
  6. What is “new ways to capture value”?
  7. What are “new revenue streams”?

Who will pay it and for what purpose?

It is unfortunate but true that MLA has a sad history of issuing a “sensational headline” to divert attention from lack lustre performance, such as the sensational proclamation by the last CEO of the wonders of DEXA that would revolutionise carcase grading in no time flat.  Well, years have passed and DEXA is still not a commercial reality.  But it did divert attention from the campaign to democratise MLA – CCA and RMAC.

Another glaring line mentioned was about meeting the expectations of “customers, consumers and the community”.

Just who of the “community” is envisaged and who will represent the “community view” in this regard?

It is unfortunate but true, that MLA and its satellites have engaged with the likes of W.W.F. (World Wildlife Fund), the T.W.S. (The Wilderness Society) and Animals Australia as discussion stakeholders in recent years on various subjects.

But are they really the people to consult as “community stakeholders”?

  1. At no general election have any of these Activist Groups polled better than 10% – 15% of the popular vote.
  2. That means that 85% of the community don’t support their views or agenda.
  3. So why are they consulted?
  4. And why are the vast Industries involved with the Cattle Industry not consulted?

Groups such as:

  • The Transport Companies that cart our cattle, our stock feed and our freight.
  • The Stock Agents and Sale Yards and their Employees.
  • The Stock Feed Manufacturers and Suppliers.
  • The Veterinarians and Chemical Manufacturers and suppliers.
  • The suppliers of Seed and Herbicides that we use to keep our land productive. The Truck – Tractor – Machinery – Motor Bikes etc Dealers.
  • The 4 Wheel Drive Dealers.
  • The crush – tags and reader dealers.
  • Our Insurers and Bankers.
  • The Workers who toil each day with us in the heat – cold -wet and dry.
  • The Doctors – Nurses – Flying Doctor and Ambulance who come to assist.
  • The small shop owners, food and groceries suppliers.

Sadly, from what I have seen all or most of the above are deemed as unnecessary or unrepresentative by the MLA, but the Activist Ginger Groups, who are not involved with cattle, don’t work with cattle, have never managed cattle or land, have no monetary investment in cattle or land and no knowledge of cattle, are welcomed as “community representatives”.

The views of these “ten percenters” appear superior and more valuable than the views of the general “eighty-five percent”.  Or so it seems to those of us who can’t believe that Activists are the preferred species, ahead of the vast majority who reject their agenda at every election.

One thing is certain – If the expectations of the W.W.F. – T.W.S. Animal Rights groups are met, then the Cattle Industry will be regulated out of business, just like they told us they would do some 30 years ago.

The other question that is not mentioned is how does this policy expectation fit in with the current MLA endorsement and support of the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which limit red meat consumption to just 65 grams of red meat a day?  These 65 grams includes lamb – mutton and pork as well as beef, so, if we are to adhere to these 65 grams per day limit, which is current policy, we are actually looking at only one meal of beef per week consumption for the Australian population for now and in the future.

Does this mean that MLA now has a policy that will not promote an increase in consumption of beef in Australia?

While initiative and enthusiasm are great attributes, reality and clear explanations are needed to convince the Cattle Levy Payers that this newly minted creature can deliver on the hype and to whom it will deliver?

Will it be just another “World Leading” exercise that merely delivers more rules, more regulation, more paper work, more audits but no extra income for the Levy Payers?

Those of us who see our market share being eroded by North and South America, who have little or none of our rules and protocols, are bemused, concerned and unconvinced by the explanations thus far provided.

Finally, I find it curious and disturbing that there is no mention of the capitulation by MLA, CCA and Agforce to the Green Mafia by deeming a 50 metre by 51 metre area of saplings, 6 feet 9 inches tall and just 21% canopy to be a “Forest”.

In this “new age interpretation” of a Forest some 200 years of interpretation by such luminaries as the Collins – Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries have been overturned.

In this “new forest” no Eagle can build a nest, no Koala can sit in a fork, no Possum can find a hollow, no Goanna can climb to safety, no Bee can lodge it’s honeycomb and a rider on horseback sticks out the top.

But if a Cattle Levy Payer dares to clear this growth, within the laws of the Commonwealth or the States, then they are deemed guilty of “deforestation” by our “Green Colleagues” and can be banned from the Cattle Supply Chain.

It is strange how this factor, which will affect millions of hectares of cattle properties and affect every State of Australia isn’t mentioned much in the Media and most Levy Payers don’t know about it!

Yes, the MLA has trumpeted the “Grand Vision to 2030”, but too many details are murky, too much has no credible disclosure and unfortunately too much has been glossed over in the fanfare of selling a grand plan.

Our current cattle prices are very good as we write, but they have varied greatly this year.  Our current prosperity is solely due to our chronic shortage of cattle coinciding with an increasing World demand.

It won’t always be this way, so please don’t drown us in rules that we will not be able to afford in the next downturn.

The Cattle Producers pay the MLA some Fifty to Sixty million dollars a year and for that we want a certainty of benefits, not a probability of stagnant consumption and more expensive rules.

J. Ashley McKay



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  1. Brian Creedy, 25/06/2020

    The Minister for Agriculture appears to be missing in action.It is his job to implement the long awaited Senate Enquiry Recommendations and bring some democracy into the system.Levy payers are being conned.

  2. Benn McIntosh, 23/06/2020

    Spot on Ashley, unfortunately the MLA and others are following the uninspired and rudderless leadership shown by our pollies in pandering to those who have nothing invested in our industry.This will undoubtedly continue until we can break the cycle of blindly accepting short term ‘shiny ass fixes’ to long term problems.

  3. Peter Vincent, 23/06/2020

    An excellent piece of correspondence; the response from MLA will be interesting. Let’s hope “double the value” means twice the current profit to the producer because it’s a given that the fixed and variable costs of beef production will double during the next decade in Australia.

  4. Brad Bellinger, 23/06/2020

    Thank you Ashley You speak for the 200 000 levy payers that are forced to pay a livestock tax yet are kept out of any decision making process.

  5. John Carter, 23/06/2020

    Well done Ashley!
    MLA should have been shut down in 2011–it would have saved industry nearly $1 billion. It is a self promoting machine. The long term plans have always been full of unmeasurable weasel words.
    We should ask what has happened to the 4-5 million cattle that have gone from MLA,RMAC and ABS Australian herd counts of last Spring. Had they been station managers with 16% of the herd unaccounted for they would be sacked.
    Also, Has the RMAC restructure been overcome with COVID19?

  6. Mike Introvigne, 23/06/2020

    Ashley you have hit the nail on the head but unless we see true reform of our representative body nothing will change. I believe MLA has too much power far beyond what it should have and probably contrary to its charter.

  7. KymEndersby, 23/06/2020

    I agree with your statement and I hope it is heard by them but I don’t think it will be

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