Ballarat Saleyards Project under the Microscope
National’s candidate for Ballarat, Paul Tatchell today welcomed a visit to the Ballarat Saleyards by Senator Bridget McKenzie, a key instigator of the recent Inquiry on the red meat processing sector.
Mr. Tatchell said the purpose of Senator McKenzie’s visit to the saleyards in Ballarat (Thursday) is to talk with local operators about some of the local problems.
The Interim Report into competition in the red meat processing sector by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee was released earlier this month in Canberra.
The purpose of the inquiry was to shine a light on the red meat processing sector in response to meat processors’ boycott of the Barnawartha Saleyards on 17 February 2015.
Senator McKenzie said when nine meat processors all decided not to turn up to the Barnawartha saleyards; it was a watershed moment for producers, prompting me to initiate this Senate inquiry following an outcry from local farmers.
Mr. Tatchell said Ballarat is the biggest sheep yard in Victoria and a Cattle yard, about the same capacity as Barnawartha.
“The site for the proposed new Ballarat Saleyards is totally at odds with Nationals policy in creating economic investment in Victoria’s largest Rural City; The Ballarat saleyards has been the catalyst for economic growth in precinct, and itis inconceivable to put at risk established businesses ran by hard working country people. The saleyards is the iconic heart of Ballarat’s rural history providing a solid foundation for regional investment.
The suggested site in Miners Rest defies the synergies that promote organic growth in commercial terms, and puts unnecessary pressure on the family orientated community of Miners Rest. This is not a case of going backwards to move forwards, it’s about developing opportunities on a proven foundation.” When I came to this district 35 years ago, the saleyards stood idle waiting for the stock to come, look at the precinct now, a thriving commercial precinct with capacity for future development and jobs”
“Senator McKenzie was on the Red Meat Inquiry Committee and her visit enables concerns around this project to be highlighted,” he said.
Local saleyard advocates, the Ballarat Region Saleyards Action Group, welcomed Senator McKenzie’s visit.
Spokesperson Mick Madden said “we are extremely concerned with the manner in which the Ballarat saleyards project has been managed”.
“Ballarat Council has given away a publicly owned business that is generating $1 million in profit per annum, for a single dollar”.
“This arrangement with RIPL threatens the future of stock sales in this region. The new saleyards will be run purely for profit and with excessive fee increases which will be ultimately passed onto the consumer”.
“We are grateful that Senator McKenzie and Paul Tatchell have taken an interest in this issue” said Mr. Madden.
Senator McKenzie said the evidence provided to the committee clearly demonstrated that producer concerns about a lack of transparency and unequal bargaining power with the big meat processors were justified and that continuing to put up with such treatment was simply untenable.
“It had a huge impact on local producers, who were at the mercy of the buyers’ wishes and who saw $50 to $100 taken off every grown beast sold on the day.”
“Throughout this inquiry we heard a lot about abuse of market power. We have heard a lot about producers not wanting to come forward and give evidence because they are afraid of retribution from other players within the supply chain. Confidential submissions received by the committee have included shocking allegations of bullying and intimidation,” Senator McKenzie said.
The ACCC recently announced market study into the cattle and beef industry in Australia which will examine competition, efficiency, transparency and trading issues in the beef and cattle supply chain.