Facebook Twitter

Senators hand down final red meat inquiry report

by James Nason, 12 September 2017
7

Cattle Council of Australia should be replaced as the grassfed cattle industry’s peak industry council by a new “a transparent and accountable producer-owned body” to be called Cattle Australia, and the Australian Government should provide immediate funding support to help the grassfed cattle sector to do this.

That is one of the major recommendations (published in full below) handed down this evening by Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee in its final report from its long running inquiry into the effect of market consolidation on the red meat processing sector.

Other recommendations deal with issues including post sale weighing, industry standards of practice and a review of the Red Meat Memorandum of Understanding.

Structures require ‘urgent reform’

The committee says it is has formed the firm view over the course of its inquiry that existing industry structures, roles and responsibilities – particularly that of Peak Industry Council’s in relation to the levy-funded service organisation Meat & Livestock Australia – require urgent reform.

The committee also believes that improving producer representational structures is critical if wider reforms are to be achieved and carried through.

“The committee is of the view that the proposed new representational body – called Cattle Australia for the purposes of this report – should be given the opportunity to work as intended,” the report says.

“For the body to take on the role of a properly representative body, it needs to be properly funded and have the structure necessary to be truly representative and consultative.

“To this end, the committee recommends that Cattle Australia be provided with adequate independent funding as soon as practical.

“With decisions currently being made about the use of substantial amounts of levy- payers funds including on technology such as DEXA, the committee recognises that there is some urgency for a well-resourced Cattle Australia to effectively represent the interests of grass-fed cattle producers.

“Moreover, once operational, Cattle Australia will be able to make appropriate, informed decisions on behalf of their levy payers about price transparency across the supply chain. It will be in a position to effectively guide and assess MLA’s performance in the expenditure of grass-fed cattle levy funds and to ensure greater transparency with regard to the use of levy-payers funds.”

The committee says Cattle Australia should develop an organisational and representative structure which is democratic and fully accountable to grass-fed cattle levy payers.

Under the leadership and guidance of a remunerated skills-based board, it said could be achieved by establishing:

  • membership and voting structure to enable levy payers a direct say in the utilisation and investment of their levies;
  • leadership body of elected members that reflects the unique geographic, demographic and economic makeup of this sector; and
  • transparent reporting system to enable levy-payers to trace the utilisation and investment of their levies.

“Once Cattle Australia is established, with a membership structure in place, it should be officially recognised as the sector’s PIC under the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997, and Red Meat MOU.”

The committee has further recommended that the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association (ALPA) lead the development of industry Standards of Practice that cover all commercial transactions in relation to livestock – including online, paddock and saleyard transactions.

It says the Standards of Practice should include guidelines which encourage all parties to conduct transactions in good faith, do not mislead other parties, and ensure that all such transactions are negotiated under the law.

It has also recommended that Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce consider requesting Meat and Livestock Australia to conduct a study into pre- and post-sale weighing to provide the southern industry with an evidence-base on which to consider selling methods at saleyards.

The full list of recommendations is published below, stay tuned for Beef Central tomorrow for more analysis of the final report and industry reaction.

The full report was tabled in the Senate this evening and is expected to be published soon on the Committee Inquiry’s web page here.

List of recommendations

Recommendation 1

2.7 The committee recommends that the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources consider requesting Meat and Livestock Australia to conduct a study into pre- and post-sale weighing to provide the southern industry with an evidence-base on which to consider selling methods at saleyards.

Recommendation 2

2.103 The committee recommends that the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association (ALPA) lead the development of industry Standards of Practice that cover all commercial transactions in relation to livestock – including online, paddock and saleyard transactions. The Standards of Practice should include guidelines which encourage all parties to conduct transactions in good faith, do not mislead other parties, and ensure that all such transactions are negotiated under the law.

Recommendation 3

4.108 The committee recommends that the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources conduct a review into the operations and capability of AUS-MEAT to determine whether it is the most appropriate body to oversight the installation, inspection, calibration, replacement and quality assurance auditing processes of the new DEXA technology. The review should also identify what reforms and resources AUS-MEAT would require to fulfil this role.

Recommendation 4

5.77 The committee recommends that the Australian Government provide immediate support, including appropriate financial assistance, to the grass-fed cattle sector in its efforts to replace Cattle Council of Australia with a transparent and accountable producer-owned body as the sector’s Peak Industry Council.

Recommendation 5

5.78 The committee recommends that the Australian Government officially recognise Cattle Australia as the grass-fed cattle sector’s Peak Industry Council under the Australian Meat and Live-Stock Industry Act 1997 and Red Meat Memorandum of Understanding once it is operational and has a membership structure in place.

Recommendation 6

5.88 The committee recommends that a joint industry and government meat and livestock task force be established to conduct a comprehensive review of all aspects of the Red Meat Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Recommendation 7

5.89 As part of the Red Meat MOU review, the joint industry and government meat and livestock task force should consult widely across the industry and consider options for reform.

5.90 The task force should present a report to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources within two years of its establishment. The report and its recommendations should be made public.

5.91 To ensure full transparency and encourage industry ownership over the reform process, the task force should endeavour to publish its preliminary findings during the review period as well as bi-annually.

The members of the Senate Committee are WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle (chair), Qld Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan (Deputy Chair); WA Liberal
Senator Chris Back (to 22 June 2017),
WA Liberal Senator Slade Brockman (from 17 August 2017),
Tasmanian Liberal Senator David Bushby (from 22 June 2017 to 17 August 2017), Qld Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm, NT Labor
Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, and
Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice. Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie also participated in the inquiry.

Statement from Senator Bridget McKenzie

In a statement released this evening Senator Bridget McKenzie said the purpose of the inquiry was to examine the red meat processing sector in response to meat processors’ boycott of the Barnawartha Saleyards in Victoria in February 2015.

“When nine meat processors all decided not to turn up to the Barnawartha saleyards, it was a watershed moment for producers, prompting me to initiate this Senate inquiry following an outcry from local farmers,” Senator McKenzie said.

Senator McKenzie said the committee inquiry, which received 122 submissions, was a key way forward for the red meat sector to regain the confidence of processors and farmers.

“Our report recognises geographic differences in red meat markets, structure and funding should reflect those differences.

“This is the eighth inquiry into the red meat sector and the time to get it right is now, farmers and others in the sector are relying on us and we will not let them down,” Senator McKenzie said.

The seven recommendations include a study into pre and post-sale weighing to provide an evidence-base on which to consider selling methods at saleyards, a key concern to producers in Victoria.

The committee recommends that a joint industry and government meat and livestock task force be established to conduct a comprehensive review of all aspects of the Red Meat Moratorium of Understanding within the industry to consider options for reform.

Senator McKenzie said the report along with an inquiry by the ACCC call for urgent changes to the way business is conducted at cattle saleyards.

“There must be simple, easily interpreted price grids ahead of livestock auctions, post-sale weighing and general transparency across the sector.

“That is the only way to return confidence to the red meat industry, a call echoed by the ACCC and supported by the Victorian Farmer’s Federation.

“I call on the industry peak bodies in the red meat industry to take up the challenge and support these recommendations to the sector.

“They cannot ignore the evidence to the Senate over the past two years or the recommendations of the corporate regulator.

“I have been supported in these calls by the ACCC and the VFF and now I hope that these changes will be made so the red meat sector can move on.

“There must be transparency, there must be changes and there must be ownership of these problems to resolve them and move on,” Senator McKenzie said.

*The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee report, Effect of market consolidation on the red meat processing sector.

 



Topics:

Related Stories

Reader's Comments


Comment
  • Clarke Roycroft September 12, 2017

    About time the cattle council got the bullet Maybe now we will get something that actually represents we the producers,instead of lettuce leaf representatives we have had for years .

  • Paul Franks September 12, 2017

    One problem I think happens with all these groups and committees is they become well out of touch with the world of reality and the people they are supposed to be representing. They essentially become bureaucratic in nature and decisions that effect the whole industry become more based on the theoretical rather then practical.

  • Loretta Carroll September 12, 2017

    Thank you to Senator McKenzie for instigating this Inquiry and Senators Sterle and O’Sullivan and the other Senators involved in this inquiry and to Dr Jane Thomson and her team. Thank you for listening to farmers across Australia through regional Senate hearings and submissions about our concerns for our industry. We hope these recommendations will be carried forward to create the changes needed to grow our regional economy and our farming and community well-being.

  • John Gunthorpe September 13, 2017

    Thank you Loretta for your efforts to raise the need for change. Unfortunately CCA are dysfunctional, moribund and broke. They continue to fail our industry and take actions that damage cattle producers. CCA’s support for the Protection Zone Policy in Queensland sent 280 properties into quarantine over a disease risk that is the least important disease impacting our cost of production.

    CCA now have their people running around the country trying to defend the indefensible that Biosecurity Plans should be in place by 1 October this year. MLA’s Dr Jane Weatherley CEO NLIS Limited argued yesterday on the Queensland Country Hour that unless a producer has a plan after 1 October, you will not be LPA compliant and your stock may not be accepted at abattoirs or you might take a price reduction. Checking with Australia’s larger processors yesterday revealed that they would refer the NVD to MSA for checking but there would be no price reduction or refusing of stock for slaughter. MLA do themselves a disservice attempting to use the processors to enforce the adoption of their Biosecurity Plans.

    Biosecurity is important to all producers and is practiced on-farm to the best of our members ability. However, to try to force it through with such a poorly thought out plan and in such unnecessary haste is further evidence of CCA’s failings.

    It is now up to the Minister to accept or reject the Senate Committee’s recommendations. We attended a meeting in Brisbane in December 2015 when it was made clear to the Minister that CCA were not managing their responsibilities under the Red Meat MOU. Nothing has changed and now with LPA it is getting worse.

    This report may however cause CCA to be more accommodating of the Implementation Committee proceedings. As we understand it CCA have delayed and reversed previous agreements in the negotiations to date. Those members of the Implementation Committee who support the latest senate recommendations are frustrated by the lack of progress from CCA. The four CCA representatives will need to get a deal done as quickly as possible now to avoid the sword of damocles ending their time in the sun.

  • Ron Shaw September 13, 2017

    The light at the end of the tunnel is that the producer should build a sense of being treated fairly and honestly.

  • Chris Gunther September 13, 2017

    I think it will be a case of phoenixing. When CCA and RMAC get their heads together, shut themselves down, with big payouts and resurface in Cattle Australia with better funding and pay and still not represent the man on the land.Although, I do love the sound of an “implementing committee” , that can provide a “raft of measures” to be considered, and no doubt be investigated by an “advisory body” who will report to a “insert new committee name here”. It goes on and on. I’m sure the ABC could make a show about it.

  • Eion John McAllister September 14, 2017

    Chris has a very valid point. Shouldn’t be seeing any names there from the previous crew if the recommendations are acted upon. Mr Barnaby Fixit is now in the hot seat and we await the Minister’s hopefully rapid response and not ” in the fullness of time” or “after evaluating the possible responses” or whatever spin line is able to be trotted out. The Minister needs “to be brave”, let’s see if he has what it takes to be “Brave” in the words of Sir Humphry.

  • Leave a comment

    (First Name and Surname Required) - read our Comment Policy

    (Required)

    (Required)