24 January 2020

Dr Paul Wright Chair of Cattle Producers Australia (CPA) said that “CPA supports Senator Bridget McKenzie in her vitally important role as Minister for Agriculture acknowledging her initiatives to date in seeking not only reform of grass-roots cattle producer representation but also her work to ensure bio security measures are in place to protect the beef industry’s future.

Minister McKenzie has been supportive of industry reform and CPA has initiated much commentary over the past couple of years urging reform to strengthen transparency within the industry and ensure cattle producers do get a fair go.

Dr Wright said “the grass-fed beef industry is seeking reform to enable grass-fed producers the opportunity to engage in the decision making processes with regard to levy collection and expenditure and policy development within the cattle industry”.

In 2013 then Agricultural Minister Joyce called for a senate inquiry into the industry structures and systems governing levies on grass-fed cattle resulting in seven recommendations to counter the fundamental structural flaws that inhibit levy payer engagement, direction and control of levy expenditure.

Following on from those recommendations there was industry-wide agreement to reform the cattle Peak Industry Council to a fully democratic inclusive organisation to meet the needs of grass-fed cattle Producers. There was also a strong call to review the Memorandum of Understanding between the industry structures that underpin the red meat industry.

In 2015 Senator Bridget McKenzie called for another Senate inquiry, triggered by producer outrage over the alleged buyer boycott at Barnawartha. The Senate Inquiry report into the effect of market consolidation (September 2017) found that a contributing factor to the alleged abuse of market power by processors was a lack of the countervailing power of a strong financially sound cattle producer representative body.

The report supported the findings of the 2014 Senate inquiry in relation to deficiencies in cattle industry representation by existing peak bodies and called on Government to provide immediate support for a transparent and accountable producer-owned body and to officially recognise Cattle Australia (now Cattle Producers Australia) as the grass-fed cattle sector’s Peak Industry Council.

Dr Wright said in a recent response to our correspondence the Minister stated that the Government recognises the importance of contemporary world-class structural arrangements that allow the red meat industry to meet its economic potential and that the current arrangements are not optimal evidenced by the number of reviews into the sector over the years, including the 2014 inquiry.

The Minister also commented on the more recent review into the red meat MoU and has assured CPA that the Red Meat Advisory Council’s (RMAC) White Paper is not viewed as an implementation proposal and that Government is committed to listening and working with everyone in the sector to make sure we get any new governance arrangements right.  The Minister also shares CPA’s view that the input of and the support from levy payers would be a critical part of any new structure.

The Minister has more recently announced the Government’s plan to improve and modernise the rural Research and Development Corporation (RDC) system and has advised an innovation advisory panel will be established to lead engagement with stakeholders on options to improve and modernise the RDC system.

Red meat industry reform is widely recognised within the industry as essential and CPA recognises Minister McKenzie’s positive contribution to these ongoing considerations.

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