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Last week the ABA put out a press release saying “Cattle Council must make public the latest R&D review”.

In the release, ABA chair, John Niven, called the Cattle Council to make the report public.  The fact was, MLA has spent in excess of $1 billion on R&D.  He went on to say “the people who pay industry levies and taxpayers that provide the funds have every right to see the report”.

MLA spends about $80 million per annum on R&D.  About $40 million of levy payers’ money is matched dollar for dollar by the Federal government.  MLA has published little or nothing of its R&D outcomes and was unable to produce scientific and financial records from the 2010 – 2011 productivity commission enquiry into the performance of R&D corporations.

In the report the productivity commission recommended that the commonwealth should withdraw from RDC if MLA could not comply with science and financial accounting requirements. It seems clear that things may not have improved since that time.

The MLA for its part has commissioned a report which was handed back in early June and has not been released publicly.  The MLA board has discussed findings in Brisbane this week and peak councils will also discuss the matter later in the month.

Mr Hanson, M/D of MLA says the review was conducted for MLA management and it would be up to the MLA board to decide whether to release publicly. He goes on to say all stakeholders were still to be advised of the report content and it was not appropriate to release any findings publicly until this had happened. From the ABA’s point of view, we feel that producers that pay the levies are the stakeholders along with Australian tax payers.

Is it appropriate to give certain people a copy as long as they only give out agreed sections? Hardly Democratic. The ABA believes that the whole system needs a really good shakeup and restructure.

Apparently the report provides a frank and at times confronting assessment of the MLA’s existing processes.

For example, stakeholder feedback cited by the reviewers includes a statement that, almost unanimously, MLA major stakeholders and R&D partners stated that the policy framework for the MLA R&D investment was unclear and did not provide a sound basis for effective research collaboration and future planning.

The report has been doing the rounds since early June and there have been rumours that MLA was not happy with the reviewers’ findings and approaches were made by MLA to ask reviewers to adjust and rewrite their findings.  Mr Hanson denies this has taken place and no part has been rewritten. He goes on to say that MLA asked the review panel to identify its weaknesses so that MLA could improve their services.  If MLA is so happy with the report why hasn’t it been released to the public?

Mr Hanson says the MLA was aware that some people would try to spread misinformation about its processes.  This is why MLA has appointed a totally independent panel of independent reviewers of high standing in the scientific community to review these processes.

Cattle Council of Australia chief executive officer, Jed Matz, said the council would be briefed by the review panel and its next council meeting at the end of August.

On reading the MLA Cattle Council reports one would think that nothing is wrong.  The possibility is the report may never be published publicly if the Cattle Council and MLA get their way, and the producer who pays his tax plus a levy has no right to this report.  This seems to epitomise the sort of behaviour that we see from the Cattle Council and MLA.  Surely, this is the time to be seriously considering restructure.

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