NTCA 2024: Unity plea as livestock sector faces “fork in the road”

James Nason, 25/03/2024

Cattle Australia representatives at the 2024 NTCA conference in Alice Springs included (from left) Cattle Australia Regional Consultive Committee member Ben Hewitt, CEO Dr Chris Parker, chair Garry Edwards, RCC member Kari Moffat and deputy chair Adam Coffey.

A TANGIBLE sense that the livestock sector is at a critical juncture and faces an unprecendented challenge to secure the industry for future generations permeated several speeches at the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association’s 40th annual conference in Alice Springs last Friday.

Outgoing NTCA president David Connolly and immediate past president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association of the United States, Todd Wilkinson, gave rousing addresses on similar themes to open the conference.

Both emphasised the importance of industry unity, calling out “Government overreach” in policy making in response to mounting efforts by opponents seeking to end livestock production.

Cattle Australia CEO Dr Chris Parker

Dr Chris Parker, the CEO of Cattle Australia, continued the theme, adding that “there is a confluence of things coming together that are putting enormous pressure on all of us”.

“And for the first time in many years, and we had speakers before talk about it, it’s a fork in the road, it is time to stand up, and it is.

“Because if we don’t stand up people are going to start to make the rules for us, and we can’t afford to have that happen.”

Dr Parker, who has extensive experience across agricultural policy and leadership positions including senior roles within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said there is strength in numbers in being able to speak with a single voice.

He said the current Federal Government is “not our friend” and the industry is facing a whole range of threats on a wide range of issues, and “and we need to be in there and having our voice heard”.

In current discussions around the development of a new Australian Animal Welfare Strategy the Federal Government is including groups that are “implacably opposed to our right to do business”.

“That is not consultation,” he said. “They are not the ones who own, look after or even care for the animals.

“And this idea that we have to have all the stakeholders in the room means that our voice gets drowned out.

“We need your support going forward.”

‘We need to be the loudest voice’

He said that if the sector can’t come together and can’t stand behind each other or next to each other, “then we will lose”.

“And there is a lot of people out there who are quite happy to see us lose for a whole range of reasons.

“They’re the people we should be fighting against, not yabbering amongst ourselves.

“We need to be advocating our point of view so we’re loud and they’re soft, because it is the loudest voice, particularly at the moment.

“We are not that important to the electoral fortunes of the Federal Government, so we need to be even louder and we need to put it into terms that they understand.”

He said in his experience working in Government, any industry coming to speak with two or three different points of view made it very easy for Ministers and Governments to do nothing.

“Our responsibility is to have those conversations behind closed doors amongst ourselves. We all should have different points of view, and then once we decide a course of action, then we take it further.”

‘You have got to get rid of the infighting’

Prominent agribusiness deal maker and investment banker David Williams from Kidder Williams, in between having the northern cattle audience rolling in the aisles in fits of laughter with anecdotes about his formative years in agriculture, northern investment experiences and close encounters with Alice Springs cats, also had a serious message or two for the conference.

Kidder Williams managing director David Williams

“This business needs good leaders,” he said.

“There is so much that has to be done.

“You have got to get rid of the infighting, and you have got to get focused.”

He added NTCA president David Connolly’s speech should be “mandatory viewing for anybody in agribusiness”.

‘Too often ag sector at odds with itself’

Australian Agricultural Company CEO Dave Harris also touched on the importance of industry unity during a broader address summarising collective learnings from the company’s 200 year history in Australia.

“Too often I feel the broader agricultural sectors appear to be at odds with itself,” he said, referring the “spaghetti map” of 270 different national and state-based groups which represent Australia’s 90,000 agricultural businesses today.

AAco CEO Dave Harris

“It is no wonder more time is spent arguing with each other than making progress.

“We risk losing key parts of agriculture while we fight for pieces of the pie instead of growing the pie.

“..while we stumble around trying to find our direction, looking backward or inward instead of forward, the interest groups who want to end our industries are gathering pace.

“There are only a few dozen of those groups in Australia but they are organised and they aren’t going away any time soon.

“The consequence of inaction could be profound.

“..Times may have changed but the sentiment is the same, and as we become more united the fight to secure our industry for future generations will get easier.”

‘Govt disgracing themselves with deceiftul delaying tactics’

NFF President, David Jochinke added weight to the industry unity message at the Alice Springs conference, before following up today with an angry reaction to news that the Federal Government has requested a further nine-month delay in court proceedings to compensate producers affected by the illegal 2011 live cattle export ban.

NFF CEO David Jochinke

“I was in the Territory when this news broke, and I’ve seen how visibly angry and upset this has made people,” he said.

“There is no reason for this delay besides petty politics. The Federal Government is making it clear once again that justice for the people who had their livelihoods destroyed isn’t a priority. They simply don’t care.

“The Government is meant to be a model litigant. However, they’re disgracing themselves by deceitful delaying tactics and shirking their responsibility to fairly compensate cattle producers.

“It’s time to do the right thing and pay up. It’s a simple as that.”



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  1. Bob Iffla, 27/03/2024

    Unity is very important. I feel that NFF should be conducting a heap of meetings across Australia in conjunction with state industry leading groups. These meetings need to call for unity but also to rev up a type of frenzy and peaceful demonstrations.
    I am nearly eighty years old and a life member of WAFF and have never seen a more important time to stand up and be counted. The fight must be one this time. Consideration should be given to targeting a number of marginal Labor Seats in each state. I suggested this last year at a meeting at Katanning last year.
    I say get with it

    Yours faithfully
    Bob Iffla

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