Opinion

Opinion: Why Cattle Australia will not be a ‘rebadged’ Cattle Council

Lloyd Hick, president, Cattle Council of Australia, 01/09/2022

We cannot let the perfect become the enemy of the good. For years the Australian grassfed beef cattle industry has needed reform of its peak industry body. We’ve come close, but so far finishing the job has been evasive and we need that to change.

CCA president Lloyd Hick

As we go through the restructure process, we’ve got to remind ourselves what’s important. A transparent, financially sustainable, and democratic new organisation, which is within reach once more.

The key to achieving what we need is greater democracy, and Cattle Australia will deliver this. Once it becomes the new peak industry body, it will have a model where any Australian grass-fed cattle levy-paying producer can join, vote, and run to be on the board. This matters more than anything because as soon as your organisation becomes democratic, it gives a much higher level of assurance that the organisation will reflect the will of the people it represents.

Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) has never had this. Currently, eight of the ten board positions are only open to candidates selected by the State Farming Organisations (SFOs). In 1979, involving the SFOs to elect board members made sense as they have always represented a substantial base of most producers. This model is outdated. With technology such as email and online voting commonplace, it is significantly easier for a peak industry body to interact directly with all Australian cattle producers. As the world around us changes for the better, so too should your representative body.

Right now, CCA is facilitating between the SFOs, who as founding members effectively own CCA, and members of the Grass-fed Cattle Restructure Steering Committee (RSC) to finalise a constitution. The current draft constitution has had substantial input from Cattle Producers Australia, Northern Pastoral Group, CCA and the SFOs. This draft has provided the core architecture of what will eventually become the Cattle Australia constitution.

It is important to acknowledge CCA’s role in this phase of the process – we are an intermediary. Any changes made to the draft constitution will be to accommodate the needs of the SFOs, the RSC or through legal advice which must strengthen the intent, provide clarity, or ensure the new constitution meets its legal requirements so Cattle Australia is put on a firm footing from day one.

I have heard many disparaging comments about the SFOs’ role in the restructure process, but we really must give them credit as they are offering to forego significant power for the good of the industry. The SFOs are no longer guaranteed a spot on the board and their candidates will have to compete in a democratic election for those positions. The buck stops at the board and they are no longer assured of being at the table. Any suggestion the SFOs are acting in a self-serving manner is simply wrong, and extremely disrespectful given the sacrifice they are making for the good of every Australian grassfed beef producer.

We must keep in mind that it’s the constitution that counts. A constitution is a founding document that governs how an organisation will operate, how it elects and appoints office holders, how it sets its priorities and how decisions are made. It will make Cattle Australia a completely different organisation from CCA, and we must remember this. Calling Cattle Australia, a rebadged Cattle Council is like calling the United States a rebadged British colony that’s still under the control of the Queen – we all know that’s not the case.

The matter of funding has also been subject to significant misinformation. A portion of the levy has never been promised to fund the organisation. The previous minister David Littleproud said he would consider any proposal, which he is obliged to do by law, but that never meant it would be approved. Yes, we need to pursue a more sustainable funding model and democratic reform is the important first step in this process. It is hard to justify membership fees for individuals when they have limited opportunity to be involved at the highest level of decision-making – but this is set to change. Ultimately the new board will be responsible for deciding how the organisation is funded. Our job is to put Cattle Australia in a position where they have funding options they can pursue.

We need to focus on what’s at the core of this. Cattle Australia will deliver democracy and that gives every person in our industry the ability to put up their hand and make a difference on an even playing field. The cattle industry needs unity – CCA will work with all parts of the industry for unity and Cattle Australia will deliver it.

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Comments

  1. suzanne Landers, 08/09/2022

    The organisation should only represent producers who own and run their own organisation. So much nonsense has been said about foot and mouth disease – mostly from QLD staffers of feed lots and abattoirs etc – when little has been done by the federal and state ministers for agriculture to keep such devastating diseases locked out from our disease fee shores!

    Just to clarify, Suzanne – Cattle Australia will represent grassfed beef producers only – not lotfeeders or processors. Editor

  2. Will Robinson, 07/09/2022

    In the final run of things, surely any representative body will need to act in the long term interests of the foundation of the industry which is those graziers breeding the cattle, who carry most of the cattle most of the time?It seems logical that the system will in turn need to rest upon both good land husbandry, and good animal husbandry to generate sustainable supply and value in the chain? Both supply and value are essential, regardless of politics?

  3. bridget clarke, 05/09/2022

    This is a great initiative! Well balanced and evidence-based. I really hope the industry can push thru the naysayers and get this up. It’s a nod to more inclusive, accountable governance and a chance to bring the cattle industry into this century.

  4. George Scott, 04/09/2022

    Well said Lloyd.
    Watching from the sidelines is easy, as is sinking the boot in whenever you don’t like what you see, or things don’t look like pleasing you in their entirety, and that goes for those involved as well as the has-beens like me or the wider industry. The SFOs and CCA and RSC have to be commended for the work to date. In my years on CCA I couldn’t imagine the SFOs voluntarily giving up roles and responsibilities that they were the ones paying for and the only ones turning up in numbers to carry out the thankless tasks year after year. You have come a long way. As always you will never please everyone. Finish the job.

  5. David Sandow, 03/09/2022

    The current structure cannot provide opportunity for representation of all.
    Unless you are a member of a state organisation you currently don’t get an opportunity to express your view, which could almost be seen as compulsory unionism.
    Even within those orgs the views expressed by the respective representative will be that of the majority of members. Those of us running smaller numbers in regions where there isn’t the concentration of cattle, will often have different issues to the majority.
    Agricultural producers are often hesitant to join advocacy groups if they feel that they don’t offer them much.
    Any step to reverse this can only be a good thing.

  6. Ann Britton, 02/09/2022

    Unity is so badly needed in our cattle industry that I am truly proud to be a part of
    To those being a voice for the rest of us, pushing for fairness overall & wanting us to have a voice, thank you.
    Moving with the times and creating an opportunity for unity for the majority, would not have happened overnight from people willing to give of their time so that the focus is on all having the ability to make a difference
    I sincerely hope everything goes smoothly…looking forward to a progressive, inclusive, creative, unity cattle Australia future

  7. Tom, 02/09/2022

    Good work. The new Cattle Australia is a once in a generation opportunity for reform and to unite our grass fed beef industry. Democracy, skills, diversity, strong governance and advocacy will put our industry in good stead. So much opportunity lies ahead for our industry but we must be future focused, and united to deal with the challenges we will face.

    Full names required for future comments please Tom – as per our long-standing reader comment policy Editor

  8. Adam Coffey, 02/09/2022

    The industry owes a great debt of gratitude to you Lloyd and many others who have worked tirelessly (and voluntarily) to get this restructure across the line.
    As to the naysayers; I’ll never understand people who criticise our industry bodies for a perceived lack of ability to represent the majority of stakeholders. As a young producer who wasn’t born or bred in the industry, I’ve found ample opportunity to have my voice heard – both at state and national level. In fact you learn pretty quickly the art of saying no, as unfortunately the majority of work is done by a minority of people who are willing to give up their precious time to contribute.
    One thing is for sure, if we don’t collectively agree to move forward at this point in time it will be to the detriment of our great industry. Whilst we argue and pontificate about creating the perfect national body our detractors are coming at us hard. There’s never been a more important time to be united so let’s get this restructure done and we can all get behind Cattle Australia and make it the best it can be.

  9. Paul Brown, 02/09/2022

    As a grass-fed cattle producer I’m personally looking forward to the new Cattle Australia structure which is far more democratic and inclusive in the modern era of agriculture in Australia.
    The previous SFO-based structure of the Cattle Council drove producers away rather than attracted new people and new ideas from outside.

  10. Nyssa, 02/09/2022

    As a producer I’m keen for anything that can provide unity in the industry across states and sounds like this new structure can do just that. Instead of throwing mud all the time we all need to get involved and work towards a common goal.

  11. Angus Whyte, 02/09/2022

    Well done it is really good to have a full review of structures, identify where they can improve and then make it happen. Takes a lot of backbone to bring about change, we done Cattle Council.

  12. Katrina Paine, 02/09/2022

    Well said. Hopefully all involved can focus on the bigger picture and get to the finish line.

  13. Michelle Finger, 02/09/2022

    “The constitution that counts”
    … would that be the mysterious constitution that hardly anyone has seen & only CCA get to vote on?

  14. Terry McNaught, 01/09/2022

    I’m glad someone is talking sense. Usually all you hear is sledging being hurled around. Time to leave the attitude at the door and get on with the job.

  15. Paul Wright, 01/09/2022

    “Finishing the job has been evasive” due to CCA pulling out of the collective and agreed process.
    It is important to emphasise if we do not apply the agreed structure attained by the various stakeholders involved we will not gain the required support from those stakeholders.
    The RSC had not approved the draft Cattle Australia constitution.
    Cattle Producers Australia representatives on the RSC proposed a number of amendments to the draft constitution that were not forwarded on to the solicitors.
    See link to CPA webpage providing list of documents – Item 2. Major outstanding CA constitutional issues https://cattleproducers.com.au/cattle-australia-restructure-process/
    Finally the RSC did not agree to wind-up on 30 June 2022 and hand over to the CCA.

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