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Experience deficit at the top? Five red meat bodies now under new leadership

Jon Condon, November 20, 2014

Producer forumCall it coincidence or bad planning, but last week’s election of new red meat industry peak council presidents has exposed potential for a disturbing continuity problem in industry body representation.

No less than five peak councils and other industry sectoral groups have anointed new chairmen/presidents in the past few weeks, leaving a prospect, at least, of lack of continuity in cross-sectoral industry discussions.

Here’s the list of national industry bodies, either peak councils or service delivery companies, that now have ‘newcomers’ at the helm as elected representatives, or operational heads:

  • The Cattle Council of Australia on Friday elected Queenslander, Howard Smith as its new president, replacing Andrew Ogilvie.
  • Sheepmeat Council of Australia on Friday elected Western Australian, Jeff Murray as its new president, replacing Ian McColl. It is the first national livestock peak council role filled by a Western Australian in recent memory.
  • The Australian Livestock Exporters Council recently appointed former Labor Government minister Simon Crean as its new chairman, replacing Peter Kane.
  • The Australian Meat Processor Corporation is currently recruiting for a new chief executive officer, following the decision by Michelle Edge to resign following the recent birth of her first child.
  • While not a peak council directly involved in policy decision-making, even Meat & Livestock Australia is still in a state of ‘transition’ following the appointment of Richard Norton some months ago as the service delivery company’s new managing director.

Will the widespread personnel transition impede the broader beef industry’s ability to manage it’s affairs?

“It’s not ideal, in terms of continuity, but I can’t see the unusual cycle having too much bearing, either at Red Meat Advisory Council or Safemeat Council level,” RMAC chair, Ross Keane told Beef Central this morning.

“Both Howard Smith and Jeff Murray have deputised for their former presidents on both boards at different times in the past,” Mr Keane said.

“Simon Crean, as the new ALEC chair, is perhaps a different ballgame, because he is new to the industry, having attended only one previous meeting. But I think he will being a valuable skills-set and input around the industry table,” he said.

“Each new sectoral representative will bring their own style to industry-wide discussions, but that’s a good thing. I think it will be reasonably seamless.”

Mr Keane said it was ‘somewhat coincidental’ that so many sectoral groups had changed over at the same time.

“Both Sheepmeats Council and Cattle Council can go to four-year terms if they choose, but in this case both have decided to elect new heads a year early.”

Among other peak councils, the current president of the Australian Lot Feeders Association, Don Mackay, has at least another year to serve, as does the Australian Meat Industry Council (Frank Herd as board chairman) and Processor group chairman (David Larkin).

All three would provide valuable continuity with the previous RMAC and Safemeat board membership, Mr Keane said.

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