PGA slams ‘token’ offer

Rebecca Turner and Niall BoyleCountryman

Pastoralists have dismissed the Federal Government’s $3 million compensation handout, saying they would rather the Government put its efforts into mending the live cattle trade with Indonesia.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) Pilbara chairman Michael Percy said the figure was “pretty insignificant”.

“The Government would have been better to focus on the major diplomatic problems it has caused with Indonesia, ” he said.

“We want actual effort going into fixing problems of the cattle trade, not just a token measure.”

PGA livestock executive officer Ian Randles said the $3 million was a “miserable” offer and did not take into account the value of the industry.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton said that while the assistance would be welcomed by some, it would not replace the full amount of income that farmers, their employees and related industries would have earned had the trade not been suspended.

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, who announced the compensation package on Monday, said it applied to anyone, including pastoralists, who earned the majority of their income from the live export trade.

“It will provide short-term assistance while safeguards for the trade are established, ” Senator Ludwig said.

“The Government remains committed to reopening the trade as soon as possible.”

However, the minister was unable to say when the trade could restart.

The funds, equivalent to the Newstart allowance, allows for a maximum rate of $625.90 a fortnight paid for up to 13 weeks, backdated to June 7 when the ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia was imposed.

A single person with no child would be eligible for $474.90 a fortnight.

Funds would not be means tested.

The $3 million is separate from the $5 million animal welfare contingency fund that Senator Ludwig is pushing for from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

But the minister this week admitted that Parliament could veto any move to force MLA to pay up.

A spokesman for Senator Ludwig said the minister was continuing to work with industry to establish this fund.

However, Federal Opposition claimed it was unconstitutional for the Government to force industry to pay compensation for the fallout from the live cattle ban.

Liberal Senator Chris Back said the MLA constitution required levy funds to only be spent on market access, marketing and promotion.

MLA managing director David Palmer agreed, admitting that a compensation payout would be outside the bounds of MLA’s charter and the obligations of directors.

Instead, MLA is continuing to push for its $9 million plan to re-open the trade.

Australian Beef Association chairman Brad Bellinger said members were outraged and northern cattle producers needed financial assistance now.

“Now, through the incompetence of MLA, they have lost our principal market, ” he said.

Further information about the subsidy payments or the employment service is available for a Centrelink Hotline on 1800 808 869

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