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AusMeat Overhaul!!!

I have watched, as I’m sure many others have, as the industry’s watchdog, AusMeats, could be set for an overhaul with plans to bring it under one company and strip its auditing services.

MLA’s general manager, Richard Norton, who sits on the board, said that consultation on changes is planned for the peak industry bodies. He went on to say that it is clear that some of the commercial functions that AusMeat does, can, and should be, tendered out by a new integrity system so it breaks down the monopoly that perhaps exists in industry around third-party auditing.

Mr Norton said that the proposed move would give the opportunity to set up one system that would encapsulate all the auditing systems that have been imposed on the industry currently. The proposed changes are part of a wider streamlining of the Industry Integrity Systems that manages risks and underpins Australia’s beef reputation from paddock to plate. There are different levels of integrity systems that were brought in as needed over the last 15 years, to put them all into one could mean efficiency gains Mr Norton said. The issue was discussed last month at the Senate Inquiry in Canberra where Mr Norton said the system could be up and running by the end of March next year.

Some of the comments were very interesting. Who is going to keep the industry honest and what will happen to Australia’s integrity overseas? I note the person making this comment had not signed their name and I would ask whether they have their snouts in the trough, because there’s a lot of vested interest who do little of the paying and lot of the saying in the present system.

A wonderful example of how the present system works is a producer is forced to sign up to LPA.  Although supposedly a voluntary system, try selling cattle without it.  Under LPA say if there is a problem with meat that comes from their cattle they agree to take all the blame which absolves the processor or other sectors of the industry.  Even worse for such a wonderful insurance policy the producer pays as they always do without any talk of compensation.

Shortly after this article a furious Kevin Roberts launched a broadside at suggestions that AusMeat should be dismantled saying it would cause untold damage to Australia’s reputation on international beef markets. He goes on to say this is really dangerous stuff because this signals the end to our customers in overseas markets if Australia is prepared to water down its standards.  From my point of view nobody seemed to be talking about watering down standards, and Richard Norton is doing what he is paid to do and that is looking at the best value for producers. For goodness sake he’s had the audacity to suggest that processors should contribute towards the funding of LPA. Dear me, what’s the world coming to when we have people questioning whether producers are getting good value for money.

One of the comments “Gee… Kevin is furious”. Probably not as furious as many livestock producers, who’ve had LPA forced upon them with a ‘voluntary’ compulsory third-party contract. Wonder if furious Kev realised MLA owns 50% of Aus Meat and as such mergers are a good sign of economies of scale providing this can be done with low-cost redundancies.

MLA’s response to claims by Mr Roberts shows just how powerful other sections of the industry are in the present structure that we see in the beef industry.  Richard Norton said no MLA representative had ever stated, suggested or implied any desire or plans to dismantle Aus Meat. It seems the recent recommendations of the safe meat initiative review steering committee included the recommendation to form closer relationships and more coordinated services across a number of systems. To have them work close together to create efficiencies and reduce cost for producers and processors. One of the key recommendations in the report was to bring all the elements together in one responsive company. Mr Norton said MLA, and other interest groups, were eager to see the sector have a constructive debate as to how these systems could evolve and better assist livestock producers and the process sector. Three cheers for Richard Norton on the subject! He has my brownie point of the month.

Last comment posted struck a chord. “What is obvious here is a blatant convoluted red meat structure that is funded by unidentified taxpayers who have bugger all say in the lot”.  From my point of view this is typical of the way the industry is run with $70M from grassfed producers plus LPA, NLIS, Tags, etc. All paid by cattle producers who have very little say and are not able to be identified to be given a Democratic vote. No change is not an option!

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