The Rural Press Club of Queensland speech by Red Meat Advisory Council chairman Don Mackay on February 6, came just a couple of hours after David Littleproud was confirmed as the new Federal Agriculture Minister.
Cattle Council has appreciated strong and effective relationships with successive agriculture ministers, and we look forward to this continuing with Minister Littleproud who has proven to be a passionate advocate for cattle producers.
Mr Mackay was speaking about the livestock and red meat industry's work in reforming the structure of the various bodies across the sector.
He made the timely observation that regardless of who holds the agriculture portfolio at any given time, the onus is on the representative organisations to prosecute our priorities to the government and minister of the day.
There's so much riding on our ability to successfully advocate and collaborate.
Livestock producers manage around 355 million hectares of Australia's total landmass and the overall red meat industry is the country's largest trade-exposed manufacturing industry, employing over 400,000 people across the supply chain.
The finalisation of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) this month is testament to the value of effective industry-government collaboration.
For the beef industry, it means 575,000 cattle will now be tariff-free with that number rising to 700,000 head in six years.
Boxed beef tariffs have been cut to 2.5 per cent (from 5pc) and access for unlimited volume, with the tariff rate to be eliminated after five years.
Trade reform continues to be a fundamental priority for producers, and we're encouraged by the ongoing cooperation between industry and the government in this regard, including our work together to push for improved market access to the EU and the UK.
Where our oldest trading partner is concerned, Britain's entry to the EU in 1973 accelerated the demise of beef exports to Britain.
More than 100,000 tonnes of beef were shipped in 1973; only 3500 tonnes were exported in the last 12-months.
While I was in Brisbane for the Rural Press Club address, I had meetings with a number of beef stakeholders ranging from traditional family-based producers through to some of our largest corporate pastoral houses with various degrees of vertical integration.
On a tour of Oakey Beef Exports, seeing the way technology is complementing human resources and upholding product quality and traceability was particularly impressive.
And it was very heartening to see green grass and rain while visiting the McConnel family at their Mount Brisbane property near Esk.
We should be very proud of the standard of beef Australia produces, but never overlook that access to the high-value markets we target for so much of our product depend heavily on improving trade access and our disease-free status.
Meanwhile, global opportunities and challenges will continue to arise; the disruptions caused by the coronavirus lockdown has brought retail beef sales in China to a standstill, while the protein deficit caused by African swine fever has created a longer-term supply vacuum which Australian beef producers can help fill.
We exist in an industry where any number of dynamic forces create continually emerging openings and hurdles.
That's why we need strong producer representation and industry oversight, along with a clear advocacy framework to work with other supply chain stakeholders and effective collaboration with government.
As we continue to progress industry's structural reform, those imperatives remain very much front of mind.