The Federal Government is a major stakeholder in the red meat industry restructure process, as it provides millions of dollars to the industry through matching research funds every year.
The proposed restructure also suggests significant changes to compulstory levy funding arrangements, which would require changes to legislation to enact, and therefore Government support.
The Federal Government has previously rejected requests from the grassfed cattle industry to create a new body that would combine control of expenditure of compulsorily acquired levy funds while also performing industry advocacy roles, which the recommended Red Meat Australia body would incorporate.
Asked for the Minister’s views on the recommended restructure released last Thursday, the Minister’s office provided Beef Central with the following statement:
“The Minister thanks RMAC for its White Paper and recognises the work that has been done by the Taskforce, led by Mr Jim Varghese, in addressing a number of long-standing concerns around funding and representational issues the Government has had about the red meat sector, and which have also been raised in a number of Senate inquiries.
“Industry and taxpayers alike deserve to have confidence in the agriculture levy system, and in the bodies that monitor this investment.
“The Minister is pleased that the RMAC have led an assessment of their structures, and will be considering the recommendations outlined in the White Paper in a broader reform agenda.”
Meanwhile the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC), the Peak Industry Council representing red meat processors, wholesalers and retailers, released a statement following the White Paper release saying it will engage with members in coming weeks to discuss its recommendations.
In the statement AMIC said it commended the Independent Taskforce for its work in gathering and assessing wide feedback from across the sector, and supported the broad aims of the exercise and its aim to promote “a stronger, more competitive and streamlined industry”.
“We’ll be going out to members in the coming weeks and months to guage their response to the White Paper and in due course will share our thoughts on the best way forward to ensure greater returns for our members, while driving us all towards a high performing domestic and internationally recognised red meat industry,” AMIC CEO Patrick Hutchinson said.
Read the full AMIC statement here.
Other public statements put forward to media on the Red Meat MoU review so far have primarily come from a range of independent cattle industry groups and commentators.
Cattle Producers Australia issued a statement saying the white paper restructure proposal was ‘damaging for Australia’s red meat industries’, because it left grassfed cattle levy payers who contributed the lion’s share of industry levy funding largely unrepresented.
CPA chair Dr Paul Wright said it appeared the recommendations from a string of Senate inquiries, the ACCC and other reviews appeared had been ignored by the review panel, “leaving levy payers even further removed from any opportunity to influence how their levies are spent and how policies which effect their industry are developed”.
“The proposal is the antithesis of ‘no taxation without representation’,” Dr Wright said.
“The repeatedly documented, obvious and damaging inequities of the past stand to be magnified and further institutionalised should the White Paper proposals be accepted by the Minister.
“Never has it been more important for cattle producers and their representative organisations to unite to ensure cattle producer interests and aspirations for their industry are recognised and given the opportunity to flourish.”
Property Rights Autralia issued a media release saying it was “beyond hypocritical” for a process that started with the grassfed cattle industry request democratic reform, which involved two Senate inquiries, to result in “the most undemocratic structure that could possibly be conceived”.
PRA Chair Joanne Rea said that through the extensive consultation provided through repeated Senate inquiries producers ‘ again and again’ were adamant that they wanted more control of their levies and democratic industry organisations.
“A very large proportion of the family production sector thought that the recommendations were very good and indicative of what our industry needed,” she said.
Producers, particularly family farmers. have been ignored in this flawed process.”
She said livestock producers would not be one of the signatories of the MOU and the only concession would be that Peak Industry Councils may be invited to have a seat on the ‘reconstituted RMAC’ known as Red Meat Australia.
“There are however ‘performance indicators’ and failure to comply will see a PIC thrown off the board. One of the requirements will be a need to conform with the as yet unwritten MISP 2030.
She said the need for a strong lobbying presence on behalf of producers had never been greater but the restructue would create a new organisation that collects all levies, which would hand power over levies to three appointed board members plus those appointed by the PICs – of which livestock producers would only have one representative.
In a blog post sent to rural media Sydney solicitor Norman Hunt who has been a long running commentator on Australian cattle industry structural issues described the recommended structure outlined in the MoU white paper as an “Orwellian Red Meat Animal Farm (RMAF)”, arguing that it does not treat all levy payers equally.