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Letter from Member

This letter was presented to the ABA by Ranald Braund, who had attended the meeting in Casino run by CCA.

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Dear Sir,

 I attended the first  Forum organized by the Cattle Council (CC) of Australia in Casino and endured once again the arrogance and incompetence of this body which survives by the motto ” don’t let beef producers become a priority in our life when they  are only an option to be manipulated and used”.

   The forum was advertised (attached) as providing  “a mechanism for the Cattle Council to have a two way dialogue directly with the Australian beef cattle producers.” As a Forum is essentially a Public Medium that is used for debates in which anyone can contribute.   Also it went on to say that the “Cattle Council has two distinct roles. One is to represent the interests and views of Australian beef cattle producers and the other is to provide strategic policy advice and direction to Meat and Livestock Australia(MLA) on the investment of grassfed cattle levies” and “Cattle Council has a national focus that enables it to go out and engage with producers around the country to get their views on behalf of MLA, so it can better target its marketing and R&D activities according to what producers are telling them”

    Well this Beef Central news letter (attached) Quoting the CC & MLA was so far removed from what was delivered  in the Forum and so serious in its deception that I am actually sending a copy of this correspondence to the Ombudsman, The Federal Minister for Agriculture,  plus all those listed below.

Let me bring you up to date with regard to the reasons for holding a number of forums around Australia and the underhand reasons for appointing Cattle Council.

   The MLA with some $180 million of funds each year hasn’t been able to define where its funds should be directed, and instead of tendering for,  and commissioning a private company to undertake delivery of producers views, has appointed Cattle Council to do this for the princely sum of $400000. (The Casino Forum would have cost $4000 at the most) The reasons behind this are patently obvious, for if you don’t want the community to gain an independent and factual  understanding of the failings, cronyism, deceit and deception,  waste, and disregard for beef producers views, then you keep any review in-house  by appointing the (CC).

  This game of deceit and deception came horribly unstuck at the Casino Forum.

I arrived to be handed a copy of the agenda (attached) and immediately realized that none of the above reasons for holding the forum would be able to be fulfilled, in view of the intention to lecture us with 3 hrs of embellished and irrelevant information.  These lectures were clearly set up, for the purpose of disallowing genuine beef producers the ability and time to express their genuine views, with regard to the MLA, and the massive problems that exist with the present industry structure, and the voting system, that allows 3 Queensland beef producers to out vote the whole of the rest of Australia on any issue plus the demonstrable lack of return for $s spent over the last 15 yrs.  Hardly a democratic system and one that has  allowed the MLA to be answerable only unto themselves.

In the light of this agenda I immediately moved for the suspension of standing orders, so as to allow free and open dialogue, as advertised above and to allow the forum to fulfill its advertised role. This motion was seconded after some discussion.  We were informed, by the chairman Jed Mantz (CEO of the CC) that it wasn’t really a meeting and as such only questions were allowed and motions weren’t in order. However the motion was put by the chairman and carried by the meeting democratically. Then to my dismay, following some discussion at the chairman’s table, the meeting proceeded as per the original agenda. This decision of Jed’s to wipe his feet on democracy was not well received by the majority of members present at the forum. At the end of the meeting a motion of no confidence in the MLA and CC put forward by Ron Barnes, an independent producer, wasn’t even allowed to be put to the Forum by the chairman.

This last motion if put would have given extremely important feedback to the MLA and would have acted as a barometer of the feeling of the majority present at the forum for there is no doubt in my mind that the balance of the meeting changed dramatically in the light of factual information presented from the floor by producers as the forum progressed.

As the forum progressed many long standing, informed beef producers, agents cattle buyers, were able to highlight with pointed questions to the speakers a lot of the problems existing within the fields chosen by the lecturers. You must remember in view of the advertised purpose of this forum, that the chairman, Jed, informed us that we were only able to ask questions, and not make comments. How one could construe this policy of no comments, only questions, as being able to gain any worthwhile direction from beef producers at the forum confounds me.

To add further insult we were invited to participate in expressing our views on the performance of the MLA and MSA by the use of hand held clickers, handed out to all present with a pile graph to appear on the screen and a yes, no, undecided vote to be undertaken. The first pile graph flashed on the screen with 100% yes and approx 5% no, already installed, shown to us (just to establish in our minds how we should vote) and as people pressed their clickers the yes vote reduced down from 100% and the no vote rose from the bottom. The next graph had the same protocol. The third graph to vote on was the last straw and the rest were withdrawn by the individual presenters as the meeting had seen through the manipulation attempted. Any attempt to gain meaningful and objective data, and an accurate range of the views of the participants at the meeting, was clearly flawed using this method. The excuse that it was a programming fault doesn’t have any validity after 3 presentations of the same format. After all we are dealing with people who are supposedly professionals and extremely well paid. The only valid excuse lies within being incompetent at their job.

  At one stage we were addressed by an invited representative of the NSW farmers. The second biggest beef organization, the Australian Beef Association, were not afforded an invitation, as even though they represent the views of many cattlemen, they would have destroyed, with facts, much  of the MLAs and CCs propaganda and that was obviously not to be allowed to happen in a controlled meeting.

This Forum being the first of its kind with a number of others to follow around Australia would have created some media interest I felt. There was only one identified reporter at the Forum (from The Northern Star). So I took it upon myself to contact the Mid North Coast ABC office and did an interview with  Kim Honan on Thursday morning. At the time I felt that this Forum and its failings by our peak bodies  should at least be given State coverage so I was also transferred to David Claughton, the executive ABC producer for NSW. He informed me that they were planning a segment on Friday’s Country Hour and that obviously todays programming(Thursday)  was already in place. The coverage was aired on Friday morning to a restricted Mid North Coast audience at 7am as David  had made the call to not cover it in the country hour. I contacted David on Monday and was not impressed with his reason for not airing these issues on Fridays country hour. He had made the judgement that all of these arguments had been presented before, without investigating the Forum itself and the many different areas of complaint regarding the format, advertising and handling of this Forum.                             After all we are dealing with our “peak beef bodies” and as we are regularly told “world class individuals and research that is world class ” I will let the facts as pointed out above,history of achievement,  and  thinking and intelligent beef producers be the judge of this claim.

  The final responsibility, for the MLA and CC, lies with the federal minister Hon Joe Ludwyck Will he act at last??

  Yours Faithfully

Ranald Braund

braelea@activ8.net.au

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