Opinion: Positive changes to the Cattle Australia constitution

Cattle Producers Australia chair Ernie Camp, 16/10/2023

Cattle Producers Australia’s (CPA) Board recently called on its members to vote for the changes to the Cattle Australia (CA) constitution recommended by the Constitutional Review Sub-Committee and the CA Board.

Ernie Camp

CPA congratulates Cattle Australia on its success in achieving the approval of its members at the 4 October 2023 Special General Meeting to accept those constitutional changes which establishes a policy advisory consultative committee in the by-laws with 15 persons elected from 15 regions and 8 selected from the State Farm Organisations. This Committee can only be changed with the approval of CA’s members.

Whilst the amended CA constitution is now a better structured document from a grass-fed cattle producer’s perspective, CPA believe crucial aspects of the CA constitution remain fundamentally flawed.

The amended CA constitution remains focused on board control of its members with a watered down policy advisory consultative committee. Membership fees range from $110 to $16,000 depending on the number of cattle owned by the member. The CA board will be elected on the basis of 3 representatives from North Australia Beef Research Council (NABRC), 3 representatives from the Southern Australia Livestock Research Council (SALRC) and 1 representative from the Western Australian Livestock Research Council (WALRC) despite the significantly large variation in cattle numbers per representative between each of those Research Council areas.

CPA believes that CA will find it difficult to attract sufficient members under the terms of its current amended constitution with its membership fees, flawed board election process and watered down policy advisory committee structure.

CPA have raised these concerns with members of CA’s board who have responded by advising that cattle producers across Australia will have the opportunity to address any constitutional issues and gain further constitutional structural improvement during the comprehensive review of the Cattle Australia constitution scheduled for 2024. This will be very important as it will give producers time to consider the current structure in its entirety. The CPA changes proposed largely hinge on the constitutional role of the Policy Advisory Council (PAC). The PAC was envisaged as the essential policy development interface between the CA Board and the diverse regional membership of CA. As the late Simon Crean said at the Making our Voices Heard discussion in Victoria in 2019, ‘We need to ask the question seriously about the effectiveness of organisations and how well they represent their grass roots because I believe that the membership structure should be around the grass roots’.

For the record CPA would like to point out our preferred model that as mentioned above was the 2020 and 2021 Federal Government facilitated industry conferences agreed industry model.

  1. The Policy Advisory Council now called Regional Consultative Committee (RCC) was to be embedded in the CA constitution and not a By-Law that can be amended or repealed by the Board with the approval of its members. This is contrary to the independent functional role of the CA Policy Advisory Council agreed to at the 2020 and 2021 Federal Government facilitated conferences. The PAC was envisaged as the essential policy development interface between the CA Board and the diverse regional membership of CA.
  2. The RCC should have the ability to appoint its own independent Chair.
  3. The RCC and or the CA Board would have the right to convene a member’s survey to determine any major disagreement between the Board and the RCC in relation to any policies developed by the RCC. Such a viable and active interface is vital if membership empowerment and membership engagement is to be promoted and maintained.
  4. Membership would be automatic in order to gain the membership of the 40,000 or more payers of the grassfed levy with an option to pay an annual membership fee / subscription for services once a business model is developed for member services.
  5. A sustainable funding model will be the key to CA’s success and strength and once a wider and broader membership base is attained via an ‘opt out provision’, a portion of the marketing allocation of the transaction levy, could be realised to fund CA policy development and consultation. The CA Board would approach the Minister for his support on the basis of a unified industry, a database providing the capability of communicating with all levy payers on production business information and biosecurity management.
  6. In principle agreement for a weighted voting system for the election of the CA Board to ensure CA gains the support of the larger levy paying members.

We however do not want to lose sight of what has been achieved to date having gained a fundamental change in cattle producer representation from a State Farm Organisation base to a levy payer base which is of major significance for all cattle producers across Australia. This will allow CA to represent our interests in the many industries that affect us with a national voice.  So, we do encourage cattle producers to join Cattle Australia and take a keen interest in its progress and take the opportunity to partake in the comprehensive review of the CA constitution in 2024 to deal with CA’s current shortcomings.


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