Sterle ‘gob smacked’ by grassfed inquiry response

James Nason, 16/07/2015
WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle

WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle

The Senator who chaired the Senate inquiry into grassfed cattle industry systems says he has been left gob smacked by agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce’s formal response to the committee’s recommendations.

Labor Senator for WA Glenn Sterle said Mr Joyce has refused to accept the clear message from producers that they want full control of their own funds, and has failed to go into bat for their interests in the face of bureaucratic resistance.

Senator Sterle and his fellow members of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport committee handed down seven recommendations for grassfed cattle industry reform last September after considering hundreds of submissions and conducting several public hearings around Australia.

The first and main recommendation was for the Government to legislate to create a new grassfed producer elected, owned and controlled body that would receive all grassfed levy funding in future instead of Meat & Livestock Australia.

Mr Sterle said Mr Joyce’s reasoning in rejecting that recommendation, in which the Minister said giving levy funding to a new grower organisation would compromise the new group’s independence and make it beholden to the Government, was “absolute bullsh*t”.

“That number one recommendation came at the request of the people we met, producers,” Mr Sterle told Beef Central.

“I am absolutely gob smacked that Barnaby who sees himself as the friend of the bush could absolutely poo-poo the idea when the industry had come together and asked for it.

“Who the hell is government to stand there say you have got it all wrong?”

“And my experience when I was dealing with truckles is that when you have industry come together and say this is what we want to do, and this is the best way, who the hell is government to stand there and say you have got it all wrong?”

Senator Sterle said the Senate Committee had travelled widely and talked to a lot of producers before producing a report that it was confident accurately reflected their views. But the minister did not like what it said and the Senate Inquiry process he initiated had backfired on him, Senator Sterle said.

“Producers made it very clear that the return to the farm gate has been absolutely slashed.

“The industry said they were in desperate trouble for a number of reasons.

“To deny the growers an opportunity to form their own body and this is not just one group but all of them working together to have equal representation from their areas and their zones, to actually have the ability to collectively decide, discuss, argue for and against how their dollars will be spent, and to be just smacked on the head by the minister is beyond the realms of impossibility.”

Senator Sterle said that in the face of a strong message from producers that they wanted full control of their levies, Government departments should simply “get out of the way and make it happen.”

“This is an absolutely classic example of bureaucracy doing everything it can to ignore the wishes of those who are paying the levy.”

He said growers should be now be given the right to vote on whether they want the senate committee recommendations as handed down last September enacted.

He said the Minister had gone out on a limb to attack his own Government over the Watermark coal mine, and had not shown the same commitment to support producers who were in dire straits and told a senate committee they believed their industry would be better off it was in full control of its own money.

“If he had the same passion for our cattle producers and our rural communities that are outside the Liverpool plains as he does to stop a coal mine then you know what, we would all be popping the corks.”


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  1. Sandy Maconochie, 20/07/2015

    You guys just obviously don’t get it. Minister Joyce is spot on, and as he instigated the senate inquiry doesn’t mean he has to implement their findings. Sen Sterle and his panel displayed complete ignorance and CCA know exactly what I mean. They just don’t want to publicly admit it. Your passion is admirable but what you’re asking is totally immoral. Funding a peak council from levies is ridiculous. All you need to do is fund the peak council alternatively then if don’t like funding the current levy, then convince that peak council to reduce it. That is then moral. I too pay grass fed levies.

  2. Peter Williams, 20/07/2015

    Barnaby has lost my vote, lost to the Yes Minister team in Canberra.

  3. Philip Downie, 17/07/2015

    So why is Sandy Mac so in favour of what has been done? I have read Barnabys opinion and it is just confusing. He can’t do anything about levies and where they go but levy payers can yet if they do want something he can only try to help?? That is basically, to me, nonsense. What he has done is seen the best way to stop this is require funding that is not levy funding i.e. he still wants the old system where “you pay and have no say”. So this is just “I agree with everything but…. make it impossible to achieve”, best way of trying to keep everyone happy. Well Barnaby we are not happy.

  4. Loretta Carroll, 17/07/2015

    I agree with you John, we were relying on the Minister, who provided the leadership to instigate this inquiry, but lacked the leadership to support the recommendations in their entirety. Ironically might it be that those funded by producer levies are the challenge – constantly in the Minister’s ear!
    I fully agree with Senator Sterle, let farmers vote on whether they want the Senate recommendations.

  5. Jon Mc Mahon, 16/07/2015

    MLA jobs for the boys,it’s been going on for years good money being misdirected and the last people who get listened to are the ones paying the levies. I’ve been in retail for 40 years & the wasted money I’ve watched them do would be in the hundreds of millions over that time & the last person they ever take any feedback from & work on it is the people at the cold front working with the consumers. Barnaby please implement Senator Sterle’s good work he’s done because I can tell you the grass fed industry boys need to to control their destiny

  6. John Cooper, 16/07/2015

    Senator Serle certainly has it right in his statement “in the face of a strong message from producers that they wanted full control of their levies,Government departments should simply get out of their way and make it happen.”

    “this is an absolute classic example of bureaucracy doing everything it can to ignore the wishes of those that are paying the levies.”

  7. John Michelmore, 16/07/2015

    The Senate should proceed to the next step, a dissallowance motion and pull the ugly mess down. It would be easier to start again from scratch to get democracy and taxation with representation; instead of what we have now,taxation (levies) without representation.

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