Reality and The Vet Issue. - A Guest Editorial by Ian BoagFriday, Feb 16, 2001
There are about 120 vets. They apparently earn about $80k each. They want a 10% increase. They have
been offered something like 5%. The sum of money at stake is therefore about 80k X 120 X 5%. About
half a million all up or you could call it under $15 per farmer.
There seems to be a lot of brain fade about - a dispute over half a million dollars is being allowed
to dent a two billion dollar trade flow. All parties know that the most important thing is to keep
the trade moving because revenue forgone from a pause in the meat flow is foregone forever.
The cost of a settlement pales into nothing compared to the cost of a disruption. The affected parties
all know this and must be figuring that they can sue MAF for lost profits. The lunatics have taken
over the asylum and decided it's better to spend ten million dollars on lawyers than half a million
In 1992 after the ECA came in, all sorts of employment conditions were renegotiated on terms that made
economic sense for the good of the country and coincidentally happened to be more favourable to
employers. Arbitration became a dirty word. Some perceptive souls observed at the time that the boot
might occasionally end up on the other foot for some workers in some industries at some time in
the future. How true.
One approach to the problem would be to pay what it costs to keep it going now, then get down to the
serious business of reforming the system to get cheaper and more docile vets later when the heat
was off. A blind fool can see that this is not a good time for MAF and others to pick a fight with
Affco's Ross Townshend is blowing hot air about industrial anarchy and a return to the bad old times.
He is well aware that today's freezing workers pretty much do as they are told for incomes that
are not startling. Few of them visibly eat as well as he does ... The phrase "get over it" is one
of his favourites within Affco - good advice.
No other group in the industry has the leverage of the vets - they are there because the customers want
to pay top dollar for lamb, but only after vets have looked at it. No vets no sale. The meat trade
is 2 billion give or take. Half a million extra cost in the system is about the same as a shift
of 0.01c in the dollar.
All of the above would be still true if the vets wanted a 100% increase. The sum of money would still
be negligible in the overall scheme of things. No vets no sale. 10% seems pretty good value when
you look at it that way ....
It was a great idea for the Federated Farmers chappie to talk about publishing the vets' names so people
could throw rocks through their windows. In this spirit of openness it would probably be good
to publish the names of farmers who have drawn social welfare benefits so people could point out
their kids at school.