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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13390


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (21:28): This is a grievance debate, and I have 10 minutes to talk about some of the things that grieve me. I will do that and then pay one some particular attention. There are a number things—many things. They are all local, but they are all state and national as well—no seatbelts for kids on buses; tasers; dental care not being part of Medicare as if our mouths are excised from our body; insurance prices in flood areas where people are costed out and some put in as flood prone by a map and yet they have never had water in their houses and never will; and also the saying that the private sector is more efficient. I have daily tales that can prove that wrong, and it is not a competition. The terms 'boat people' and 'queue jumpers' are terms that just should not exist, but are ones that are bandied around in a very callous way by a lot of people on all sides. There is also the SBS in Kyogle when we had the digital switchover—that is all fine. I have been told through SBS that they are not going to broadcast to Kyogle. I am taking that issue up and complaining about it. Coal seam gas mining companies are in the Northern Rivers where they are clearly not welcome. There is also the issue of lack of safe and affordable abortion. Who could not have been moved by reading about Mrs Savita Halappanavar's death in Ireland. It was in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday, 19 November. God rest her soul, and I hope she has not died in vain.

That brings me to the state of the beef industry in Australia and particularly the model of representation that the beef industry has. I am going to give that some detailed attention tonight. It is a very local issue for my area, but it is also a state and a national issue. Some members would know of my concern about the model of representation of Australia's beef industry. I observe and believe that the producers—particularly the family producers and smaller producers; there are a lot of them—are not getting the level of representation that they deserve or require. I have spoken about this matter before in this place and the problems of the model. The model was introduced in the nineties at a critical point. It was the producers themselves and the beef industry saying, 'We want self regulation.' That is fine. That is what they have got, but there is a whole lot wrong with it that has not worked to give a voice to the producers.

Both the Cattle Council of Australia, the CCA, and Meat and Livestock Australia, the MLA, are the two peak national bodies. They have been going through the motions of reform this year, and the only outcome I have seen so far is that the Cattle Council of Australia, which is charged with what they call some advisory role or oversight role of the MLA, will now get funding from the MLA to do consultancy. I do not see how this is going to assist the representation of the producers. I will just read some experts from the Cattle Council of Australia's history, from page 1:

The Cattle Council of Australia—the national voice for beef producers—

I wish it was and it should be, but in Canberra it proves that it has not been. All governments know that it has not been the voice that it should be here. They say they are the national voice for beef producers. Ask the local producers what they think of that. I do not want to be unkind, but they laugh when they read that. In their history they talk about on page 4:

Cattle Council was not completely happy with the MLA model determined by then Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, John Anderson, but is working hard to make the new industry arrangements a success. The major advantage of MLA over its predecessors is that producers are now totally in charge of how their levies are spent.

That is not true. They are not in charge of how the levies are spent. The way that the voting model in MLA, which is a company, works means there is no way they could be in charge of that. It goes on:

In the past, other sectors, because they were forced to pay levies, had an equal, and at times dominant, say in outlays and programs.

Then it continues:

Cattle Council has new responsibilities on behalf of beef producers in advising MLA, keeping abreast of its operations and making a major contribution to the proper functioning of the Red Meat Advisory Council …

And it says a number of other things. When you talk with producers and the local producers, they say, 'That's nonsense. That doesn't happen.' They have not seen it. In my observations and my readings—and I have read all the annual reports with CCA, with MLA and with all the other bodies—that has not happened. Those roles have not been fulfilled. It is clear, even the industry itself is saying that it knows it does not have a voice. The reason it does not have a voice is that it does not have a single united voice. Yes, there are some separate issues in different sectors of the beef industry, but there have to be, Mr Deputy Speaker, some issues in common that it comes together on. We know what they are. It can at least have a united voice on those, and say, 'Here are the five key issues facing the Australian beef industry today. This is what they are and this is what we recommend.'

Do we hear it? No, we do not. We hear dead silence. I know there have been a lot of meetings going on lately with CCA and with MLA, but particularly CCA. They had a restructure committee. They had models put up to them, models A, B and C, and really it has come to nought. People are disappointed. Some old hands who have been at it for years said, 'It will come to nought.' Others said, 'No, give them a go. Let them go ahead with it and see what they come up with.' The key issue is that there needs to be a review of the industry organisations and representation. Ideally that needs to come from them. That has been put to them and people are still waiting for them to come up with it. When you hear from smaller producers, what do they say? They talk about prices. They talk about getting effectively the same prices they were getting years ago and then they will detail you some of that. I have read what the MLA have said about that. They say it is to do with the high Australian dollar. Others say differently. Economists say differently. There are different reasons. We need to know. There is not enough information. The model of representation that they have is also one that I do not see a great deal of transparency in. I do not see a great deal of transparency about how the producers' levies are spent in the research and marketing.

One thing the MLA has said is that it has stepped out of politics and will stay purely with marketing and research. Some people say that is a good thing. It still needs to be very active. I note a previous CCA member, Mr Greg Brown, was calling for a review of the industry and he was calling for MLA to have that moved at one of their meetings. But of course it would not happen. My understanding is that the funding agreement with the government and with MLA talks about an audit that can be done. It is time that that audit was done. It is time that something should happen. The least that the MLA could do is have a democratic voting structure. We certainly do not have that there at the moment.

I have a couple of other points that I would like to make. It says here, it is really the last word and it goes to the producers. This is a summation and an amalgam of what some of the producers have said. They have said that essentially there are no material changes in representation and accountability. They have absolutely ignored the proposals put to CCA, and it says, 'Levy paying cattle producers still do not have a voice in the management of their $56 million levy. It would seem CCA has sold its funding problem by securing ongoing consultation fees from MLA.' Then it says, 'Based on what producers said at consultations, it was recommended CCA take control of the levy. It would seem CCA does not want this responsibility.' (Time expired)