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Senate Hearings

This Wednesday 21st May in Rockhampton, the Senators of the Rural and Regional and Transport Senate Committee will continue their Inquiry into the collection and disbursement of the Grass Fed Cattle Levy.

This is all about you and your industry, cattlemen!!

Anyone may attend and listen at the Hearings, to be held at the Rockhampton Leagues Club, at 8.30am.

This is a Committee of Federal Senators, representing every political party, who are hearing  from those within the grassfed industry who made a submission.  It is an Inquiry into the whole beef/meat industry about why levies are collected and what happens to that levy money (all $54 million of grassfed levy) within the industry.

Already, 3 sittings of the Inquiry have been carried out – Canberra, Broome and Katherine. The remaining three meetings are at Rockhampton, Albury (10 June) and Canberra (20 June).  A decision on the management of these levies will be bought down on 30th June.

Unfortunately the rural media, both radio and newspaper, have failed to adequately report on this event. ABA would wager that most producers know nothing about this Inquiry and its importance to their business or their lives.

Considering the amount of levies that we are talking, the number of organisations who seem to make use of that grassfed cattlemens’ money, and how little that annual collection of over $50million per year  has directly helped the grassfed producer,  there should be an uproar.

It has amounted up to $1.7+BILLION being collected from the producers’ pockets!!

Pleasingly over 530 submissions were received, mostly from producers, and we think the Senators themselves were amazed at the response. They were initially planning to only hold one or two meetings.  They recognised producers’ frustrations with MLA, CCA and feeling disenfranchised, and added further hearings (as listed above)

ABA’s case has always been that the big market failure within Australia is the producers’ inability to capture a reasonable farm gate price that reflects the cost of their production, and more importantly keeps producers viable.

This is despite paying big dollars into their industry Boards.

Past Parliamentary Inquiries have suggested that the producer gets between half and two thirds of the retail dollar,  and evidence given to an ACCC enquiry suggested that cattle producers get 53% of the final retail price. This is so far from the truth, and percentages of boned out meat and of retail dollars is subject to too many manipulated truths.  (read the attached TicTacs below)

Every time there is an Inquiry, those appearing at the hearings are warned that they are obliged to tell a whole truth or face prosecution, but this does not seem to stop the proliferation of evidence that doesn’t stand up to even the most basic of scrutiny. We hope to overcome some of that this time, and feel the Senators are striving to find the real facts.

As usual, the people whom cattle producers rely on the most, the CCA, are missing in action – subservient to MLA and weak in their defence of the grassfed industry.

The fact is, one could go on to write a book on this subject. To fix the problem, cattle producers must replicate the system that processors and live shippers have – That is that in MLA they control their own cheque book (read: funds) and MLA becomes only their service provider – the way MLA was designed to be.

The fact is, the design of MLA is badly flawed that the further we look into it, the bigger the cracks become.

Let’s talk about’ independent reviews’ conducted by MLA.

The ‘2008 Arche Report’ was commissioned by the then Agriculture Minister on ABA’s behalf. But when it was released, the information given by ABA was bypassed, and MLA’s representation was skewed, so much so that even some concerned members of the SFOs (real cattlemen on those Boards) noted that Arche had been ‘nobbled’ to give MLA a big tick!

When asked who had been consulted in an ‘independent review’ conducted into MLA in 2011, out of 79 people interviewed, five were former and current MLA directors,  15 were MLA staff, and the 20 ‘independent’ people were from SFOs etc.  It was an ‘in house’ review once again. What has become apparent with MLA is if they are not happy with a report they will request it to be rewritten, and if they are still not happy they can, and do, refuse to release it.

Two such reports spring to mind.  One was a commissioned inquiry into the effectiveness of MLAs R & D (research and development), which MLA has refused to make that public. On accessing it ABA found that the authors were critical of the management and control of the R&D, the failure to track research and its costs, the unaccountability of how government funds had been managed.  The authors stated MLA had not done their job properly.  It was also noted that MLA tended to ‘play favourites’, drawing criticism for who received funding and who did not.  Wide recommendations were made to MLA.  This report was never released.

The second was the recent report into producer’s rights when signing NVDs (in good faith about the health of their cattle) and the consequences of this for those raising cattle anywhere near a coal seam gas development.  As it is becoming well documented that CSG fracking is resulting in contamination of underground water supplies extending way beyond the immediate area of the csg mining, and this could prove disastrous for stock drinking that water. (And for humans too!!)

It all merely highlights the lack of control of MLA, and how weak CCA is when it comes to working for, acknowledging, or protecting those who fund them.

 

We thought you might like to re-read or review this article below.  It makes a strong correlation between boning out percentages, and how much producers receive as a part of the retail dollar.  In other words – how dollars are taken out of your pocket.

 

Linda Hewitt

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