Property Rights Australia (PRA) welcomes the formation of the steering committee to assess beef sustainability issues. PRA heartily endorses the comments by the steering committee chair Prue Bondfield of the equal importance of economic and social sustainability alongside that of environment. In addition, the comment, “The group’s task is to find some criteria against which these rather woolly concepts can be measured,” indicates a clear understanding of the misuse of the word sustainability by those outside the beef industry who wish to impose their views. Poorly defined sustainability principles are fraught with danger for the beef industry when used in contexts that are not measurable, when definitions designed to suit an outcome and the goalposts are able to be shifted at whim.
PRA wishes Ms Bondfield well in her new role and following comments are in no way aimed at the chair or most appointed to the steering committee, but rather to the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC). It was way back in May 2014 that RMAC were given the responsibility of starting the process to collate sustainable credentials for the Australian beef supply chain to ensure Australian producer control over the production and marketing of beef.
There is no reason to doubt of the work of Jim Cudmore who RMAC appointed to work on this project in the interim period but RMAC have been remiss the lack of the provision of updates keeping the industry informed. Without information a vacuum is created which allows for fertile ground for those working to take control away from producers.
RMAC would do well to remember the words of Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The media release makes no mention of how RMAC was entrusted with this role at the Square Table convened to find a solution after the Australian beef industry resisted the attempts to take control by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). 
It is fair enough that no oxygen is given to a worldwide environmental organisation that developed what was effectively an extortion scheme  of all the major food commodities to hypocritically accumulate profit. Australia has its own measurable sustainability story to tell and the work of this new steering committee is important not only to sell our product to the world but also to make the work of those who wish to take control inconsequential.
Evidence that RMAC has not fully considered the past is not in the wording of the media release but in its actions. PRA makes no apology in saying two of the appointments to the steering committee have had a prolonged history with companies who continue to be members of the GRSB.
Given that the object of the steering committee is to assess the beef industry’s economic and social sustainability alongside that of environment, the question must be asked whether it will be able to represent beef producers effectively in that role when two of its appointees are employees or close market association with companies who are members of the GRSB and are yet to publically state respect for the Australian producers right to independently tell their own highly credible sustainability story. Clearly, those members would have a conflict of interest in taking a seat on the steering committee and producers could have no confidence in their involvement.
The work of this committee is important and it is imperative that the beef industry gets it right. Australia is amongst the best in the world in regards to animal welfare and environmental management with both State and Commonwealth policy, regulation and legislation and also vendor declaration systems. There is much to be positive about as we work to a future of our own destiny.
Property Rights Australia Inc
Phone (07) 4628 2173