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Independent Inquiries! How Independent?

Article in the Queen and country life says that the Agricultural Minister, Barnaby Joyce, is making gradual changes to the grass fed cattle industry.

MLA’s Richard Norton says that the organisation has changed dramatically since the Senate Inquiry and that now there is emphasis on producers’ engagement. Independent MLA performance review 2010 gave a glowing report that the MLA board was open and transparent.

It seems to me that producers should be asking the question “why has a Senate Inquiry been necessary for MLA to concentrate on producer engagement?”

Grass fed groups agreed on setting up a new industry body code-named ‘New Corp’ and presented this to the Minister in February last year. The industry set up a committee in August to implement the proposed model.

It was interesting that the implementation committee was set up with like-minded producers and groups, including ABA and CCA. Now CCA say that they are the peak organisation and that they will tell the implementation committee what is going on when they are ready.

A spokesperson for the minister said that progress had already been made including an independent performance review of MLA to be completed by April. The issue of voting entitlements was also being addressed.

How many independent enquiries have we had over the years into MLA and why haven’t they identified the problems that an independent Senate Inquiry turned up? How long before we can identify people who pay a levy?  Surely this has been a problem for many years, and I would have to ask why we’ve had taxation without representation. One could wonder how legal this has been! Furthermore, does CCA meet the terms laid out in the MOU for a peak council??

MLA now has three grassfed producers on the preselection committee, and contrary to public perception there are no processors on the board MLA.

The fact is that the selection panel’s sole purpose is to select the board and for this reason they meet six days a year. The people selected by the panel are actually put up to the AGM, say three vacancies three candidates, surely a Clayton’s election.

Mr Norton says that the industry must get involved at any general meetings and last year only 2% a levy payers voted and even fewer attended. Why would one bother when you get lectured and critical remarks are ruled out of order? And the chairman rules with an iron fist and election of the board is already decided.

The Cattle Council of Australia is under the MOU as the cattle producers’ peak Council. One could be entitled to ask why the CCA have all these problems popping up on their watch and even worse why have they not been identified until the senate inquiry.

CCA chief executive Jed Matz is philosophical with the government’s action on the seven recommendations saying “It would have been great but, we had to accept the umpire’s decision.”  Imagine the AMA or a major union taking this line?

To me this is simply ridiculous for a, so-called, peak Council to simply roll over. The fact is when Barnaby Joyce called a Senate Inquiry due to pressure from grassfed cattle producers (CCA not present) he told everybody present that if he called a Senate Inquiry everybody would be obliged to take the umpire’s decision. Most regard the Senate as the umpire and the Minister is the only one not to accept it.

Mr Matz goes on to say that there are positive outcomes particularly with identifying levy payers and voting entitlements. The fact is why haven’t voting entitlements been identified years ago, and even now is going to take an awful long time to sort out all levy payers who are entitled to vote. Let’s not forget that we had to have a high-priced consultant to look at the different alternatives and then it has taken peak councils months to decide the best way to go.

Mr Matz goes on to say that the government has also strengthened CCA’s oversight role with MLA through the MOU. This outlines the rules of engagement between the two bodies and, until now, MLA could overrule CCA.

The simple fact is that the government are looking at rejigging the MOU which will hopefully give a peak body more control. However this legislation has not gone through and therefore, contrary to statements made by CCA, they are still working under the same legislation.

To me the fact is simple that no matter what legislation we have, CCA are beholden to MLA for funding which to my way of thinking makes them hopelessly compromised and despite the claptrap and chest beating they dare not to take on the MLA. (750000 plus reasons)

The point being until everybody is prepared to work in a genuine constructive manner grass fed cattle producers will suffer the awful consequences of having no control over the $67 million that they pay annually into the MLA.

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