Hunt for beef lead­ers

Central and North Rural Weekly - - NEWS - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

DIS­UNITY is death.

That was the stern mes­sage from Aus­tralian Coun­try Choice group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor David Foote dur­ing the Ru­ral Press Club’s Ekka break­fast.

More than 700 guests at­tended the early morn­ing meet­ing where Mr Foote gave a no-holds-barred speech ad­dress­ing the lack of a sin­gle and strong voice for the beef sec­tor.

There are more than 100 dif­fer­ent in­dus­try bod­ies rep­re­sent­ing agri­cul­ture, and Mr Foote asked whether these groups held any power at all.

With about 20 years ded­i­ca­tion to Aus­tralian Coun­try Choice, he was quick to is­sue a dis­claimer say­ing the views he ex­pressed were his own, not his em­ploy­ers, or in his words, “this will be all Foote”.

In­stead of sin­gling out dif­fer­ent groups or in­di­vid­u­als, who could be blamed for the cat­tle in­dus­try’s frag­mented rep­re­sen­ta­tion, he pointed the fin­ger at ev­ery­one: politi­cians, peak bod­ies... right down to pri­mary pro­duc­ers.

Start­ing from the top, he ac­cused politi­cians of be­ing “gun shy”.

“Our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers ap­pear to have be­come gun shy about driv­ing change be­cause in the cur­rent cli­mate, the change needs to be them,” he said.

He also asked whether, as a whole, the in­dus­try had be­come ap­a­thetic.

“Have we all gone vanilla? Are we all wear­ing cardi­gans?” he asked.

“Are we driven, or do we suf­fer from ap­a­thy?

“Is ev­ery­thing not bad enough to make us want to con­trib­ute?”

He said while Meat and Live­stock Aus­tralia had 50,000 mem­bers, voter turnout was less than 5%.

“So less than 5% want to have a say in the big­gest ve­hi­cle we have in town that rep­re­sents the mar­ket­ing of our busi­ness,” he said.

“So who are we to blame, re­ally?”

He asked whether any in­dus­try body could make a dif­fer­ence if they didn’t re­ceive ad­e­quate sup­port from mem­bers.

“Do the bod­ies have the crit­i­cal mass that when they walk up to door at Ge­orge St, or when they walk up to the door of their lo­cal mayor, or when they walk up to Can­berra, does the bloke sit­ting be­hind the ma­hogany desk re­ally have to worry?”

While the in­dus­try lacked lead­ers, Mr Foote be­lieved there were vi­sion­ar­ies mak­ing change. He sin­gled out the MacDon­ald fam­ily tri­alling pain re­lief dur­ing de­horn­ing and cas­trat­ing pro­cesses as an ex­am­ple.

AN­DREA DAVY

Aus­tralian Coun­try Choice group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor David Foote.

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