Horticulture Australia Council (HAC) by Kris Newton, HAC CEO
So, what does HAC actually do to advance the cause of horticulture? That depends on the issue. For some issues, the most appropriate (and desirable) approach is to act as a key influence-maker by participation in reviews, Steering Committees, national forums or consultation proc- esses, presentation of submissions, and the like. This approach fre- quently has the advantage of being able to ‘head off’ potential problems before they arise! This approach has worked well in cases dealing with some of our prior- ity issues this past year, such as HAC’s representation on the national Steering Committees for the Reviews of the Amenity Horticulture and Rural Production Training Packages, or the national forum on Quaran- tine; the joint HAC/HAL submission to the Senate Inquiry into Pacific Island labour; or HAC submissions on Country of Origin labelling on fresh produce, Managed Investment Schemes, Farm Managed Deposits, or on the role of the Produce and Grocery Industry Ombudsman. Because it is much more efficient to influence government policy in the early stages, rather than have to fight a ‘rear-guard action’, much of HAC’s work is therefore ‘behind the scenes’ and not necessarily immediately apparent; though we do try to keep Members informed of current issues and steps we are taking on each (eg via the Drip Feed email newsletter). Another type of action we are taking is proactive - developing a series of Policy Positions, accompanied by Fact Sheets, on key issues (eg Water, Trade, Food Labelling, Natural Resource Management). These are designed for use by HAC and its Members organisations – either to address a particular issue (eg unilateral imposition of water restrictions by local councils), or as a portfolio of agreed stances on critical issues for horticulture (eg visiting your local MP going into an election). The other major type of action is more public, and may take the form of campaigns in the media, and/or advocacy/lobbying work with relevant politicians. Examples of this work include the Horticulture Code of Conduct, the impact of climate change and Extreme Weather Events, or Country of Origin labelling, which are relevant to the vast majority of growers. Other campaigns involve individual industries which are hurting (eg following Cyclone Larry); or cases of individual industries suffering from (frequently unintended or unnecessary) negative effects of political decisions (such as the ‘resurrection’ of the Turf Industry levy to a satisfactory outcome, or the current issue of Security Sensitive Chemicals). Further information contact: Kris Newton—CEO Horticulture Australia Council PO Box 3700 Manuka ACT 2603
Horticulture is the fastest growing agricultural industry in Australia with a gross value of production at farm-gate of $7 billion per annum. The industry is diverse, and includes vegetables, nuts, nursery and garden, fruit, turf, cut flowers and extractive crops.
Horticulture Australia Council (HAC) is the peak industry body for horticulture. The Council’s 20 Member organisations are the peak grower associations for the various commodity groups, plus grower representative organisations, and represent over 95% of horticultural production, with new members joining steadily. The mission of HAC is to: 1. Strive for the advancement and prosperity of Australian horticulture by providing structure and resources to deal with issues of common interest; and Represent horticulture with a powerful and unified voice. Part of the difficulty Horticulture had in the past was that key decision - and influence-makers (politicians, media or Departmental officers, for example) were confronted by over 40 different industry ‘voices’! This was fracturing and diluting our message. It was clear that a single voice was needed to present a coherent and united stance on behalf of the industry – a case of “united we stand, divided we fall”. Most growers are well aware that Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) is the industry-owned national research, development and marketing organisation for horticulture. HAL and HAC work cooperatively together for the advancement of horticulture, including joint projects (such as Horticulture for Tomorrow , or the Horticulture Industry Strategic Plan) or submissions, or HAC’s ‘observer’ status on HAL industry committees (such as the IMC or HMAC). While the outcomes of HAL research may form the basis of much of the data used in the political arena, HAL itself is not permitted to engage in ‘agri-political activity’ – that is the role of HAC. HAC Council Members are the CEOs and national Presidents/Chairs of the Member organisations. The Board is elected by the Council at the AGM, and the HAC Chair (presently Stuart Swaddling of NGIA) is elected by the Board. HAC’s funding comes from two sources: the main source is annual membership fees from Members of Council; and we currently receive important sponsorship from Prime Super. HAC receives no government funding, nor any funding through levy monies/HAL. The HAC Board has identified the following issues for the current period (though of course others do keep popping up!): ∗ the Horticulture Code of Conduct; ∗ food labelling; ∗ trade issues (eg Free Trade Agreements, market access, biosecurity); ∗ labour and skills (including harvest trails, DIMIA visa arrangements, Training Package reviews); ∗ exotic disease/pest management; ∗ management of land tenure in an environment of urban encroachment (‘Right to Farm’); ∗ Natural Resource Management (sustainable water management); ∗ market dominance of supermarket chains. 2.