THE newly-appointed chairman of the Nationals’ so-called ‘Squaretable’ group has put paid to any suggestions that the body’s agenda is focussed on opposition or counter-measures against the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
Former Australian Agricultural Company managing director David Farley has accepted an invitation from the Nationals to chair the squaretable, he confirmed to Beef Central this morning.
Invitations are being sent to industry stakeholders to attend the group’s inaugural meeting on May 23.
Contrary to some earlier claims, Mr Farley categorically denied that the express purpose of the group was to oppose the Global Roundtable for sustainability Beef process.
His comments appear to be at odds with statements included in Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan’s contributed article appearing on Beef Central this morning.
Mr Farley suggested that the squaretable body’s primary purpose would be to coordinate the beef industry’s broader position on a range of issues, and draw together the various activities currently taking place through white papers, senate inquiries and related work.
There are currently a range of white papers and senate inquiries in motion on different aspects of industry operations, and Mr Farley said he saw it as his job as squaretable chairman to bring the threads together into a common, cohesive industry package.
Just some of the current industry scrutiny includes the Government’s white paper on northern Australia launched in March, which had strong implications for the beef industry; the agricultural competitiveness white paper launched in December, the senate inquiry into grassfed cattle levies, sitting in Katherine today; and the Government’s scrutiny of red and green tape across agricultural sector announced earlier by agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce.
The squaretable will also embrace other industry issues like animal welfare.
“The bottom line in all this is that we have to get profitability back into the industry,” Mr Farley said.
“Even at today’s prices, which have improved a little since the drought, it’s not profitable for many Australian beef producers,” he said.
“Sure we might examine and engage with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, but that will only be in the context of a much broader suite of issues. But if I had any notion that the squaretable was focussed only on pre-conceived opposition to the global roundtable sustainability body and its objectives, I would not have agreed to take the project on,” he said.
He suggested that in engaging with the Global Roundtable group, it might be that the Australian squaretable group might simply seek to gather and present a collection of information on Australian beef’s existing track-record and performance in the area of environmental management and sustainability.
“It may be that they are surprised to see how far we have already come,” he said.
“But the scope of this squaretable body is well beyond just the sustainability roundtable issue. It’s going to be much bigger than that,” he said.
- Nationals Senators Ron Boswell and Barry O’Sullivan have issued this press release over David Farley’s appointment as chairman of the squaretable group.