Opinion

Opinion: Former president warns against ‘rebadged’ Cattle Council

Markus Rathsmann, 31/08/2022

OPINION

It is an unfortunate situation that we are now seeing the Cattle Council board takeover the Grassfed Cattle Industry Restructure process and attempt to create a new Peak Industry Council that will merely be a rebadging of Cattle Council.

NT cattle producer and immediate past president of Cattle Council of Australia Markus Rathsmann.

The new Agriculture Minister needs to intervene to ensure the process gets back on track to deliver the united, democratically elected and properly resourced peak body grass fed producers need.

Cattle Council of Australia agreed to, and passed by resolution, a flight path document in September last year.

THE FLIGHT PATH document was a timeline and process document requested by then Minister Littleproud in order for the new peak body to secure his support and seed funding.

The document formed a negotiated and agreed position between Cattle Council and Cattle Producers Australia, which then helped form the basis for the Industry Leaders Forum which brought together all the cattle groups as well as State Farm Organisations.

The forum endorsed plan on a page 4B and the Restructure Committee through its terms of reference was tasked to complete and implement the model.

It certainly reflects poorly on any organisation when they fail to honour agreed positions and principles then deviate from what was a mutually agreed process.

It appears that CCA has kicked the reform process down the road, then taken advantage of the change of Government and Agriculture Minister to hijack the Industry Restructure and now will determine itself how the new peak body should operate and be structured.

The RSC was charged with the responsibility of establishing the new Peak body not Cattle Council directors.

The Minister and the department made it very clear in the process that CPA and the other cattle groups had to be part of the restructure process.

The premature winding up of the RSC and the exclusion of CPA and the other cattle groups will only ensure the divisions in our industry remain.

A NEED TO RESTRUCTURE

In 2020 when CCA set out to restart the restructure process with our then CEO Travis Tobin, the minister intervened and helped facilitate and fund a roundtable process between CCA, CPA and the other cattle groups with an interest in National Representation.

Our common objective was a strong unified body to properly represent beef producers.

Our guiding principle was a democratically elected representative body open to all levy payers.

The Government also had a role to assist the new body develop a sustainable funding stream to run the organization.

While our State Farming Organizations have been the founding members and backbone of Cattle Council in the past. Our SFOs simply do not have the financial resources to run a National organization representing 50,000 grass fed producers into the future.

In 2020 The MLA service agreement on which CCA depend to employ critical staff was cut by over $300k per annum.

RMAC Peak industry council contributions were also cut by 25% due to RMAC overspending on the failed NEWCO 1 proposal.

The CCA model simply had to change and restructure drastically if it was to represent producers into the future.

Cattle Council have some excellent dedicated staff but there is little future in an organization with declining cash flows.

A MEMBERSHIP MODEL?

The membership model now proposed by Cattle Council or Cattle Australia is unlikely to succeed.

The current CCA constitution under which we have operated since 2014 is a direct membership model, yet has only generated on average 300 members paying $100 annually.

In short the membership model despite extensive promotion when launched, has been an abject failure and the current Cattle Australia proposal of free membership and then charging a scale of fees from hundreds to thousands of dollars is very ill considered.

The opportunity for a sustainable funding stream came with the work CCA and CPA did in negotiating with then Minister Littleproud who committed to assisting the new body develop a VOLUNTARY LEVY that would sit alongside the statutory levy numerous collection points. (over 1000 in the beef industry)

Naturally this could only work effectively under an opt out clause.

Similar systems like this operate in many overseas countries for rural advocacy groups and they have been well documented in reports prepared by the Australian Farm Institute.

The new peak body also needs to establish its own Capital fund, such as the one the Australian Meat Industry Council has established, which, with their RMAC distribution, allows them to employ 20 staff. CCA has a staff of 5.

DEMOCRACY IS KEY

A United voice is essential in advocacy and in the Beef Industry that can only be achieved with an open and democratic election process available to every levy payer.

It remains the key principle and request of the cattle groups that sit outside Cattle Council and must be delivered in the reform process.

Only an open democratic process can Unite producers, silence industry critics and end the divisions that currently exists.

While there is some uncertainty about privacy and access to the levy payer register that is now being compiled by the department. The PIC property Identification Code register is freely available in every state and could be used today to run a democratic election process.

NEW MINISTER NEEDS TO ACT TO SAVE THE PROCESS

The Government has played an instrumental role in bringing Cattle Council and the other cattle groups together to complete this reform and has largely funded the process.

As stated earlier, it is now time for the Agriculture Minister to intervene to ensure the process gets back on track to deliver the united, democratically elected and properly resourced peak body grass fed producers need.

Signed

Markus Rathsmann

Mt Ringwood Station NT

Former CCA President

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Comments

  1. Alf Collins, 02/09/2022

    Thank you Markus Rathsmann for all the hallmarks of a champion.
    Clarity, openness, skilled, intellectual capacity, and raw courage.
    Those same qualities stand Markus Rathsmann so tall in the NT cattle business. Get to know his career from live buffalo hunter to land owner and cattle breeder and land development.
    We are privileged to have this man of courage in our representative midst. He has always had a powerful intellectual breadth and a wealth of Common Sense.
    I encourage cattle owners nationwide to consider every aspect of Rathsmann’s writing, and to encourage their active support.

  2. Terry McNaught, 01/09/2022

    It’s a shame when leaders can’t see the big picture. All these accusations and finger pointing. Why does your process matter? I just want to see more democracy, everything else is can be put right once that happens. Don’t let sour grapes kill a good thing.

  3. Joanne Rea, 01/09/2022

    Thank you Marcus for your very accurate summary of the situation and the courage to put it forward. For Eight State Farm Organisations and a couple of hundred members to vote on a constitution, a constitution which previously involved parties to the discussion have not been provided with, is not acceptable for the balance of the 45,000 grassfed levy payers.
    It is just a rebadged Cattle Council with more of the same undemocratic processes that has existed in the past.

  4. Paul Wright, 01/09/2022

    CCA has acted erroneously in its attempted takeover of the reform process for democratic representation of all producers of grassfed cattle.
    Markus Rathsmann was spot on when he wrote “It certainly reflects poorly on any organisation when they fail to honour agreed positions and principles then deviate from what was a mutually agreed process.”
    CPA supports Markus’ call for the Restructure Steering Committee to resume consideration of the cattle industry representative and resourcing reform agenda.
    The RSC must be reconvened, a competent chair appointed, and deliberations of the matters before it recommence in accord with its Terms of Reference and compliant with the directives and funding arrangements delivered to the RSC by Industry and Government.
    Markus Rathsmann must be thanked for his ongoing commitment to the representative and resourcing reform of national cattle industry representation.

    Paul Wright Chair of CPA

  5. Peter McHugh, 31/08/2022

    Thanks Markus , Your undertaking to advise the Grass Feed Cattle industry on the offical procedure that were produced by the Minister of the day with by-partisan agreement from the participant groups in the selection committee is truly needed at this time .
    Hopefully Minister Watts will now intervene and back the original procedure to take this forward .
    Peter McHugh

  6. Jock Douglas, 31/08/2022

    Markus is correct with his opinion. The State Farm Organisations that are controlling CCA are damaging what should be supported reform to provide democratic representation for all grassfed cattle levy payers – 45,000 plus cattle businesses. This can be the most influential organisation in Australian agriculture and CCA puts that and itself at risk.

  7. Rob Forsberg, 31/08/2022

    Surely it is incumbent upon the previous minister for agriculture-mr littleproud-to intervene and re-direct this process, not the new minister. Don’t play politics just the correct process.

    • John Gunthorpe, 01/09/2022

      Thanks Rob for your comment. It is only the current minister who has the authority under the Red Meat Memorandum of Understanding to replace the peak body for the grass-fed cattle producers. David Littleproud could have done it when minister but the recent election results changed all that. There is no politics to be played. Just trying to find an ethical result to this grab for power by CCA.

    • Peter McHugh, 01/09/2022

      Rob, this has to be a by-partisan political approach to getting this officially back on track .
      I think everyone is backing Minister Watts , not picking on him ?
      Peter McHugh

  8. John Gunthorpe, 31/08/2022

    We fully support your call for Minister Watt to intervene and give the process back to the Industry Leaders Forum so integrity can prevail and our industry return to a democratic and ethical path.
    Australian Cattle Industry Council

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