Despite 2 years of consultation engaging with non-aligned producers and then six meetings conducted across all states the final structure put forward by Cattle Council is far removed from what independent producers want.
The ABA has been heavily involved in these meetings having directors on both writing and implementation committees. Unfortunately Cattle Council has rejected all advice and come up with their own plan. A structure put forward by the writing group was endorsed by the ABA and the Australian Meat Producers think tank which included some of Australia’s largest grass fed levy payers outlined a properly democratic structure.
It’s basis was that a new restructured cattle producers representative board should be made up of all democratically elected board members that have complete control of the grass fed levy currently running at $54 219 000. In reality all we wanted was democracy and the ability to control our levies as the processors currently do. It was not revolutionary.
The new structure approved by Cattle Council consisting of 8 State Farming representatives and initially only two elected directors provides little advancement from where we currently stand. I doubt whether there was even proper consultation with the rank and file within SFO membership. We know of no referendum or vote that has taken place from within the State Farming Organisations on this restructure.
While Cattle Council is claiming that this structure ushers in a new era of democracy the reality is far different. The two independent directors that may rise to four if 500 members can be sourced can in fact also be members of the State Farming Organisations.
There is no detail as to how independent directors will be chosen. Will it be by popular vote what will the votes be based on or is a selection panel to decide who the candidates will be as with the farcical MLA voting system.
It should also be considered that the main financial contributors to Cattle Council are the levy reserve fund over $580 000 and now the MLA giving Cattle Council over $352 000 this year rising to a projected $495 000 next year. Of the $400 000 contributed by State Farming Organisations half of this or $200 000 is then sent to the National Farmers Federation. With the perversion of the democratic process aside on a purely fiscal level State Farming Organisations have little right to control Cattle Council.
Comments from representatives of the State Farming organisations supporting this structure represent a very loose respect for the truth. Howard Smith CCA ag-force representative gave a rather poor defence of the continued SFO control of CCA. He stated that because SFO pay the most money into CCA they should have the most control.
Again I reiterate that with SFO’s contributing a net of $200 000 compare with a combined funding of over a million from the levy reserve fund and direct contributions by MLA under the guise of service agreements this is not the case.
In a an interview on yesterday’s ABC Country Hour our CEO David Byard made it quite clear that the ABA does not support this structure and will not be putting forward any candidates for the independent seats. He has articulated the position of the ABA board well.
A restructure of the Cattle Council represents a once in a generation chance to bring true reform to the beef producers representative body. A piece meal move toward a 20% democratising of CCA does nothing to address the lack of control of producers of the setting of, or expenditure of our forced levies. We advise producers not to sign up to this new structure keep your memberships fees in your pocket and force Cattle Council to go back to the drawing board and act on the advice it was given by independent producers.
At the recent Red Meat Advisory Council forum held before the MLA AGM in Wodonga I asked the President of Cattle Council if he thought that concentration of the processors and therefore lack of competition in the market place was a major contributing factor to low cattle prices.
His answer was no and predictably he was supported by the processor representative on the panel. To me this is a pertinent example of the Cattle Councils failure to address the real problems that producers face in their search to regain profitability.
Cattle producers are in real financial crisis, we have included a letter in this week’s TicTacs by Rob Moore a Queensland producer that has articulated this crisis into a personal level. One that many of us can relate to. It highlights the need for a strong representative Cattle Council that can counter the control that the processing and retail sector have over us.
ABA Director, Brad Bellinger