Barney's grains and grassfed squib

I suspect Barnaby Joyce may be finally learning a thing or two about expectation management

BARNABY Joyce needs to learn a thing or two about expectation management.

Many cattle producers in the grassfed sector feel they receive insufficient return for the compulsory levy they pay for research and marketing purposes.

Most don't mind paying and investing in their future. They understand that only a collective approach can bring the necessary innovation, productivity and sustainable profitability they understandably yearn for. But they would like a greater say in how their money is spent and greater accountability on those who spend it.

In the lead up to the last election, Barnaby Joyce – who wasn’t the Shadow Minister for Agriculture – sought to capitalise on the discontent among cattlemen by promising to do something about their concerns if elected. He did so knowing there were no easy answers and once appointed minister, he sent the issue to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs Committee.

Members of the committee – Labor, Liberal, Nationals and Greens – believed Barnaby Joyce was serious about reform of the levy system so they threw themselves into the inquiry with great enthusiasm and energy.

The committee received 192 submissions and held public hearings in Canberra, Broome, Katherine, Rockhampton and Albury. It heard from more than 80 witnesses: public servants; peak industry group leaders; business and producers.

The Senators left no stone unturned and worked collegiately. Indeed, Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald said of the chair, Labor Senator Glenn Sterle: “I want to congratulate the chairman of the committee, Senator Glenn Sterle, for his skill and fairness in chairing the inquiry and ensuring that all those who wanted to be heard were given the opportunity of a fair and open hearing by the committee”.

But the good Senators were not alone in their work. A whole range of organisations and individuals put an enormous amount of effort and resources into the inquiry and anticipated reform process.

While they had their differences, everyone agreed that reform was needed. As the work of the committee marched on, expectations grew that real reform was imminent. When the final report and recommendations were tabled in September 2014, there was much to applaud.

While I have no space here to cover all the issues and committee recommendations, the centrepiece of the proposed reform was a recommendation proposing a new producer-owned body which would be elected by and accountable to the cattlemen who pay the levy. Their money ($56 million annually) would go to the new body rather than to Meat and Livestock Australia, as is the current arrangement. The new body in turn would decide where and on which projects the money would be spent.

But then came nothing but a long wait. People and organisations, particularly the Cattle Council, kept their lives on hold awaiting the Abbott government response.

Barnaby Joyce finally responded a little more than a week ago: nine months after the Senate Committee tabled its report.

And his response? “Nothing”, is the disappointing answer. To use the Australian vernacular, he squibbed it. The sector is understandably frustrated. Its leadership was ready to accept and progress reform and devoted considerable time and money to the Senate Inquiry and has now also lost two years of valuable reform time.

Meanwhile, over in the grains sector, two grower organisations with different strengths are in a tussle for the right to be the sector’s formal “Representative Organisation”.

Both sides were looking for leadership from Barnaby Joyce; they were happy for the Minister to make a call in the best interests of the sector.

And Barnaby’s decision? Well, after a long wait he appointed both of them! I now hope the grains industry will be able to show the leadership that has been poorly lacking by the Minister.

It’s been a bad month for Barnaby Joyce: a disappointing agriculture white paper; a big reduction in Indonesian cattle import quotas; battles with his Prime Minister over the ABC’s Q&A, the Shenhua mine; further damming revelations regarding 'Hansardgate'; various commodity price falls; and now heavy criticism from both the grains and cattle sectors.

I suspect Barnaby Joyce may be finally learning a thing or two about expectation management, but the lessons of leadership are much harder.

Joel Fitzgibbon

Joel Fitzgibbon

is Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry & Rural Affairs and the MP for Hunter
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


27/07/2015 6:14:07 AM

You know what they say about people in glass houses Joel. I think that industry representation is reflecting the problems we have with Government in this country these days....too many competing opinions and no commitment or vision regarding long term policy. How else could it be when the players at the top ie federal gov and opposition spend all their time throwing hand grenades at each other?
angry australian
27/07/2015 7:36:42 AM

Joel every week I waste a few minutes of my life reading your blog and those of the other couldabeen champs.I don't care about the games you,Barny, O'Sullivan & co play in Canberra. I do care about what the politicians can do for me,my industry and the nation. But do you,or the ALP, have the answers? I doubt it, you've picked up on the fact that farmers feel that they get a poor return for their levy, but what will you do about if you manage to get into power? Judging from past comments in your blogs,nothing, for it appears as if you believe in a system that farmers are complaining about.
Hilda Hereford
27/07/2015 4:21:40 PM

I'm appalled at Labor's lack of support of the second senate inquiry into agricultural levies. because there was no political gain Labor dissented from the Libs and LDP. What an absolute disgrace for a party with aspirations to run the country. it's all about "me" not the good government of Australia. I repeat Labor is an absolute disgrace when they act like this!
Jock Munrothebrae
27/07/2015 4:54:28 PM

Joel is probably doing a job for the Liberals in attacking Barnaby! None of them are patch on our Agriculture Minister-he (Barnaby) is arguably the best friend that we have ever had.
Neville Mattick
27/07/2015 6:58:55 PM

The cost base for graziers is holding at or near cost of production; Nothing from the Abbott Government has made the slightest difference, except to worsen the cost of living in Rural and Regional Australia. The White Paper (with the lousy sheep on the home page!) only a delayed waste. Our district was in line for large scale Renewable Energy prior to the 2013 Poll - the LNP soon put a destructive end to that. Our costs just keep rising; Eroding viability with the fees and levies a burden that needs externalising or Grazing and the Family Farms will disappear.
Roger Crook
28/07/2015 11:46:29 AM

I gave Minister Joyce the opportunity to explain why 80% of the processed pig meat we consume in this country is imported from countries which heaviuly subsidise their producers and why the Australian pig meat industry in decline when we virtually live on the doorstep of that part of the world where pig meat is part of the staple diet? I pointed out that the EU, America and Canada and ever increasingly Poland and Belgium are meeting the demands of the food markets on our doorstep. His answers were pathetic.
John Carpenter
29/07/2015 10:58:50 AM

Nice article by the Shadow Minister but it lacks a statement of intent.If LABOR wins office will they implement all 7 recommendations of the Sterle committee with further delay?
29/07/2015 11:19:55 AM

Well Joe and what have you done to protect the Liverpool Plains. You could have a field day with this: /barnaby-joyce-failed-to-seek-det ails-on-giant-shenhua-coal-mine-i nquiry-hears-20150728-gimbbn.html
29/07/2015 11:49:56 AM

check with Joel as well about the budget savings measures talked up in the last Labor Green minority government. Good at talking the talk. But in fact, none of those savings were legislated and then Labor voted against them when the Coalition government drafted the legislation. You cannot trust them. Their record is appalling.
Out of the shadowShadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon aims to put ag policy under the microscope. Based in the NSW Hunter Valley, Joel also has a unique perspective on the tensions between primary production and mining development.


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