NO ONE is forecasting anything on the political front but beef’s leaders appear to be making sure they are prepared for the possibility of a change in government.
There was significant talk at a recent big industry forum in Alice Springs around engaging with both sides of politics.
In an overview of challenges the processing sector faces in breaking down technical barriers, chair of the Australian Meat Industry Council Lachie Hart said we may not know where politics will land but was our job to put in front of all politicians the best way forward on the issue.
Technical barriers to trade, which could range from chilling and import standards to religious requirements, added significant cost to processors in delivering a product overseas but also minimised access to particular markets, Mr Hart said.
“We are losing $2.75 to $3 billion a year in lack of access to some markets,” he said.
“We have prosecuted with the government the idea of an interdepartmental committee (IDC) which takes in the departments of foreign affairs, trade and agriculture as all three contribute to identifying those technical barriers and trying to break them down.
“We’ve had limited success in getting that across the board.”
It seems to be a low priority, given by-elections and dual citizenship debacles.
However, Mr Hart said just recently the Labor Party had issued a white paper on trade access with a focus on South East Asia and “picked up our policy on the IDC.”
“This is an opposition government that is listening to this industry,” he said.
Australian Live Exporters Council chair Simon Crean said his sector also worked on the principle of engaging with both sides of politics.
Speaking on the topic of animal welfare, he said: “At this year’s Ekka (Royal Queensland Show), the Labor Party had a roundtable with all the beef sectors and has indicated it would engage with stakeholders in terms of how they go forward on this issue.
“Despite the detractors, this is a sector that still commands bipartisan support.
“That is why, the animal welfare issue has to involve us embracing change - on industry’s terms but with an understanding of where the pressures come at the political level.”