Classers seek Truss meeting

31 Aug, 1999 03:52 AM
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THE Wool Classers Association of Australia (WCAA) is seeking a meeting with new Agriculture Minister Warren Truss to express its concern about some of the aspects of the Wool Taskforce Report. Association president Fred Tuddenham, who has been classing in WA in recent weeks, said he was disappointed the WCAA had not been able to secure a hearing with the Taskforce, especially as it had made a submission. Mr Tuddenham said wool classers were an integral part of the wool industry, ensuring quality and consistency of the raw product. He said WCAA members were particularly keen to talk to Mr Truss about the Taskforce's recommendations regarding truth in labelling. Recommendation 12 suggests truth in labelling legislation be introduced to accurately describe wool at the point of export and that relevant test certificates be held by the test house concerned. Mr Tuddenham said there was already a code of practice for classers in place that worked well, alongside official test certificates. "That (recommendation) is something we would like to get clarified," he said. "If the owner is doing their job and we are doing ours, what is the problem." Mr Tuddenham was also personally concerned about the sentiment of the report he saw as telling growers to get big or get out. He said classers had an important role in the industry with huge responsibility to ensure the integrity of growers' wool clip. Mr Tuddenham said growers needed to understand how classers prepared their lines and how they were performing. "If we can show them their clip is not totally perfect, they can see the price difference and then they can improve their flock," he said. "The owners, who we work for, need as much information as we can give them to help them produce quality wool." With the return of a price premium for finer lines, Mr Tuddenham said classers had to stay aware of market trends so they could class lines that would maximise growers' returns. But he said that process was becoming increasingly difficult, as some growers cut back on shed staff and shearers shore faster and faster, putting more pressure on the classer. "The owner is costing himself money if he puts the pressure on in the shed," Mr Tuddenham said. "I think if the grower puts 364 days of effort into growing the wool, he should take the time to have it well classed on the last day, which can make a difference." He said the teaching system had to acknowledge this pressure and include speed in the curriculum. During his visit to WA, Mr Tuddenham has met some owner classers and professional classers who were crying out for more information. He said the WCAA was now considering holding refresher courses for both owners and professionals who wanted to update their skills. "To keep the industry going, it is imperative we help everyone to improve, whether they be professionals or owners, and get the information to them," Mr Tuddenham said. Another issue confronting the association was drugs and its impact in the workplace, especially working with heavy machinery in the shearing shed. Mr Tuddenham said, while there was not a drug epidemic, incidents had been reported all around Australia. He said, from an occupation, health and safety perspective, the influence of any drugs on people while they were working was worrying. It also put stress on the wool classers, who were responsible for managing the staff in the shed. "I do not know what the answer is, but we need to work with the health and safety field to control it," Mr Tuddenham said.

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