Beware the 'panda people'

Singing from the same song sheet as the WWF is the biggest mistake our beef industry could make

Queensland LNP Senator BARRY O'SULLIVAN starts his new column Bush matters today with a long hard look at the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Follow Bush matters here every second Friday.

THERE is a Looney Tunes cartoon that features Bugs Bunny and a witch. As Bugs lay fast asleep, the witch pores over her cauldron, concocting her brew, stirring in the ‘eye of newt’ and the other ingredients.

Bugs is awoken by the witch’s stirrings. He sees the cauldron, which he mistakes for a bubble bath. The witch encourages this belief and even offers to scrub Bugs’ back with a stick of celery.

It is only once Bugs has hopped into the cauldron and adjusted to the temperature of the witch’s brew that the bunny realises he is the one on the menu.

This image of Bugs Bunny awakening from his snooze and excitedly climbing into his “bath” reminds me of the risk being taken by the Australian beef industry if it continues to participate in the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

The argument adopted by some is that if our beef producers are not at the table, they will be on the menu. The trouble is, Australian producers are not at the table. They are the ones climbing into the cauldron.

Our beef industry is already on the menu.

Graziers should be wary of the power of the panda because the policies that govern the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are not as black and white as its iconic logo.

Despite the WWF’s protestations that the global roundtable process might not necessarily become a certification scheme, recent history suggests otherwise.

The WWF-initiated ‘Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil’ (RSPO) took just six years to become a full scale certification system.

Companies that were unwilling to join the roundtable faced having their offices picketed by protesters in orang-utan costumes, with television cameras recording the occasion for a global audience.

The final offering from the roundtable was a certification scheme where more than 1000 members from 50 countries are now forced to employ an “approved independent certification body.”

Under the scheme, growers are assessed for certification once every five years, and if successful, they are assessed annually for continued compliance.

Every five years the main assessment is repeated.

At all stages of this process, these growers are expected to foot the bill in order to get the panda people’s tick of approval.

I have been encouraged by the support I have received from my announcement this week that the Queensland Nationals team will convene a ‘square-table’ of grass roots beef industry representatives in the coming weeks.

The planned series of conferences will gather our beef industry representative bodies to work towards collating the already-existing programs and reports that establish the Australian beef sector’s ongoing commitment to sustainability.

This will enable a final statement to be provided to reassure our major business customers.

Much of this work is already well underway.

The ‘square-table’ aims to save time and money.

There is no need for the Australian beef industry to sit alongside the WWF and the chorus line of foreign-owned multinational corporations at the global roundtable.

We already have some of the best biosecurity and food health standards in the world.

Australian producers already meet, and in most instances exceed, any accepted key performance indicators or world’s best practices.

We are well placed to serve these volume market demands as the Asian middle classes expand.

We are already proving our sustainable credentials. It is simply a matter of collating, describing and then communicating these combined efforts.

The onus should be on the WWF to explain what possible benefit it can offer our world class beef sector.

Whether it is drought, flood, debt or the live export ban, Australian graziers have confronted a lifetime’s brew of unsustainable struggles in recent years.

Producers cannot afford another unnecessary layer of regulation that will serve only to reduce farm-gate profitability.

The WWF is trying to get its hands into the pockets of Australian producers at a time when no one can afford it.

Singing from the same song sheet as the WWF is the biggest mistake our beef industry could make.

That would be a real looney tune.

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READER COMMENTS

Hunter
2/05/2014 7:34:13 AM

Great article! It really highlights the fact that WWF and alike are their to make profit first with animal welfare just the tool they use to do so!
Max
2/05/2014 8:42:36 AM

Spot on the money Barry.
Jacky
2/05/2014 9:43:39 AM

Very populist Bazza. Since you are not a beef producer, but rather a professional party man, how about you talk about something you know - eg politics.
Simon
2/05/2014 12:52:37 PM

Well said Barry. Economic globalisation is bringing with it administrative/bureaucratic globalisation which challenges national sovereignty. We need to actively reject such incusions.
Really?
2/05/2014 12:59:06 PM

The only looney tune I see here is the one at the top with grey hair on his face! Like it or lump it, we're in the business of food production, consumers increasingly want to know where their food is coming from, is it from sustainable sources? Get into the cities, meet your consumers, I'm in my mid 30's, educated, proud to be a beef producer and my friends will all admit they want their seafood from sustainable sources, the beef industry needs to follow suit and keep our product on their plates. Columns like this are doing nothing to promote and improve our industry, you can do better QCL
Waste of time
2/05/2014 1:31:49 PM

So Barry hates the idea of verifying sustainable production so much, he's going to do it also. But without engaging with the customers asking for it, the environmental and social NGO's that give it credibility or with global colleagues working on the same issue. He is forming a group to do exactly what is already being done by industry: a waste of time and money!
Max
2/05/2014 3:09:09 PM

WWF are purely extortionists, ask any industries currently being 'certified by them'. When it is a bikie gang doing the stand over tactics and extortion everyone wants them in jail but WWF well they're just great. Show me the difference. Barry is doing what politicians should do, showing some leadership and is to be congratulated.
LTF
2/05/2014 6:38:51 PM

If farmers are too blind to see that the WWF is nothing but a natural enemy of meat producers then they deserve to be thrown into that Witches Cauldron.
Spear Grass
3/05/2014 2:54:38 PM

Barry you could do better than this, aren't you the one behind the Square Table.... what a joke, sustainability is what we all ought to be doing and will have to do if we are to stay in the beef industry. Better call it the triangular table, you, Boswell and Joyce at each corner. If that is the best the pollies can come up with the beef industry is sunk.
qld mum
4/05/2014 4:24:34 AM

The beef industry should drive it's own agenda. NOT the WWF. Aus. Beef is clean & green & sustainably produced. We should sell that message ourselves. (I am confident most Aussies already have a good handle on the fact Beef in butcher is more likely to be safe than seafood in frozen pack) 'Really' I am glad you are educated & proud to be a beef producer, but there are 20-90 year olds who are educated and proud to be producers...& I think you will find a good deal of skepticism about WWF driving their agenda in OUR industry. We HAVE the product. Our future is marketing under our own terms.
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Bush mattersBush matters - LNP Senator Barry O'Sullivan tackles the issues facing Aussie primary producers and people across rural and regional Australia.

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