Australian Country Choice group managing director David Foote.
Australian Country Choice group managing director David Foote. Andrea Davy

Where are our beef leaders?

DISUNITY is death.

That was the stern message from Australian Country Choice group managing director David Foote during the Rural Press Club's Ekka breakfast.

More than 700 guests attended the early morning meeting where Mr Foote gave a no-holds-barred speech addressing the lack of a single and strong voice for the beef sector.

There are more than 100 different industry bodies representing agriculture, and Mr Foote asked whether these groups held any power at all.

With about 20 years dedication to Australian Country Choice, he was quick to issue a disclaimer saying the views he expressed were his own, not his employers, or in his words, "this will be all Foote”.

Instead of singling out different groups or individuals, who could be blamed for the cattle industry's fragmented representation, he pointed the finger at everyone: politicians, peak bodies... right down to primary producers.

Starting from the top, he accused politicians of being "gun shy”.

"Our political leaders appear to have become gun shy about driving change because in the current climate, the change needs to be them,” he said.

He also asked whether, as a whole, the industry had become apathetic.

"Have we all gone vanilla? Are we all wearing cardigans?” he asked.

"Are we driven, or do we suffer from apathy?

"Is everything not bad enough to make us want to contribute?”

He said while Meat and Livestock Australia had 50,000 members, voter turnout was less than 5%.

"So less than 5% want to have a say in the biggest vehicle we have in town that represents the marketing of our business,” he said.

"So who are we to blame, really?”

He asked whether any industry body could make a difference if they didn't receive adequate support from members.

"Do the bodies have the critical mass that when they walk up to door at George St, or when they walk up to the door of their local mayor, or when they walk up to Canberra, does the bloke sitting behind the mahogany desk really have to worry?”

While the industry lacked leaders, Mr Foote believed there were visionaries making change. He singled out the MacDonald family trialling pain relief during dehorning and castrating processes as an example.