NORTH Queensland cattle producer and former Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) chairman Don Heatley has been appointed to spearhead the Commission for International Agricultural Research.
His appointment was announced today by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop along with four new commissioners.
The Commission provides expert, strategic advice on priorities for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which plays a critical role in the Australian government’s aid policy.
The ACIAR encourages Australian agricultural scientists to use their skills to create shared benefits in food production and agribusiness for developing countries and Australia.
Ms Bishop acknowledged the important contribution made by outgoing Commissioners: Joanna Hewitt AO (chairwoman); Professor Kym Anderson; former National Farmers Federation President David Crombie AM; Agriculture Department head Dr Conall O’Connell AM; and Peter Baxter.
Mr Heatley was awarded the Order of Australia this year for services to primary industry and led MLA during the tumultuous period of the Indonesian live cattle ban in 2011.
He stepped down from that role in late 2011 but has maintained the portrayal of Indonesian abattoir conditions by the ABC’s Four Corners program, which sparked the controversial trade ban over animal welfare concerns, did not reflect normal industry standards.
Mr Heatley produces beef for specialised markets in Korea, Japan and the United States.
He told ABC radio today the Commission needed to develop an understanding of the new government’s policy changes on foreign aid.
However, he said the Commission’s clear role was to support the Minister’s decision-making on the direction for R&D expenditure in developing countries.
“The government is under enormous financial pressure but the Commission is well funded,” he said.
“There has been and will continue to be a continuing role for support by Australia for developing countries around the world, and I’ve not seen any indication that that is going to diminish.”
Mr Heatley said many countries had benefitted from Australia’s work through the ACIAR, including those in South East Asia.
He said the research program also generated shared benefits for not only the developing countries but also stakeholders in Australia.
Mr Heatley will be joined by four new commissioners - John Cook, Lucinda Corrigan, Dr Tony Gregson AM and Catherine Marriott.
Mr Cook has more than 20 years experience in the food and agribusiness industries. He is a principal project consultant with Business for Millennium Development, an independent Australian based not-for-profit organisation.
Ms Corrigan is a leading beef producer in the Murray Valley of NSW which supplies genetic products to commercial producers across Australia and to international markets. She has skills and experience in research and development, genetics, natural resource management, communications, marketing and advocacy.
Dr Gregson is a grain grower from Victoria's Wimmera region with an extensive science and corporate research management background. He currently chairs Plant Health Australia and formerly chaired the Board of Trustees for Bioversity International.
Ms Marriott is a passionate advocate for Australian agriculture. She is managing director of Influential Women, an organisation that builds the confidence and capacity of women from rural and regional areas. She spent six years working in Indonesia for MLA.