CEO Update | Industry representative meetings & the Augusta Masters

I am off on my annual golfing trip this weekend. Many people say that a round of golf is a good walk ruined, but given the year we have had, any walk in greenlife at the moment could not be ruined by the golf.

For those of you that are keen golfers and watched The Masters recently, there was an interesting video explaining how it all started. Here is some additional history …

“In the 1800s, the 365-acre tract off Washington Road was an indigo plantation. That changed in 1857, when Berckmans and his son purchased the land and formed a partnership a year later to start a nursery. Under the name Fruitland Nurseries, the two men began to import many different types of trees and plants from other countries. Prosper is credited with popularizing the azalea plant, which is found all over Augusta National. But the business ceased operations in 1910. Enter Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, who were looking for a suitable piece of land on which to build Jones' dream course after he won the Grand Slam in 1930 and retired from competitive golf. They decided to buy the old Fruitland property for $70,000 in 1931. Dr. Alister Mackenzie was selected to help Jones design the course, and construction began that summer”

… but back to the other nursery business – more on greenlife at Augusta National later.

In this update, I will provide details on some of the less visible work that is undertaken to represent the interest of member businesses and the industry generally.

Plant Health Australia (PHA) Meetings

Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) is the nursery industry signatory to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD) and John McDonald and I “attended” the biannual PHA meetings held earlier in November. There are a range of meetings conducted including the Annual General Meeting, Members Meeting, Plant Industry Forum and EPPRD Parties Meeting. The nursery industry is drawn into most, if not all, the plant pest incursions across Australia and the meetings are an opportunity for John and to stay aware of all activities and developments with PHA and our plant industry colleagues.

Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) Consultative Committee

I sit on the PBR Consultative Committee which also meets biannually, and “attended” its meeting earlier in November. The Committee is the principal forum for consultation, discussion and information exchange on issues relating to the Australian PBR system, which could impact on PBR policy, practice and legislation in Australia. The key items of business at the meeting were impacts of COVID-19 on applications, updates on policies and legislation, transitions to digital services, update on examinations procedures and a discussion on minimum distance in addressing distinctness criteria to achieve PBR registration.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

GIA provided a submission to the ACCC’s inquiry into bargaining power in supply chains for perishable agricultural products in Australia. Nursery stock is considered a perishable agricultural good. The ACCC has advised that they have been developing a ‘class exemption’ that would provide an exemption from competition law for small businesses to collectively bargain with customers or suppliers, without them having to apply to the ACCC. They have now finalised the class exemption, which will allow:

• businesses with an aggregated turnover of less than $10 million in the preceding financial year to collectively bargain with customers or suppliers, and

• franchisees and fuel retailers to collectively bargain with their franchisor or fuel wholesaler (respectively) regardless of their size

provided the group lodges a simple, one-page notice with the ACCC and with each target business it proposes to collectively bargain with (when they first approach that target). There will be no fee for lodging the notice. The class exemption will not oblige target businesses to negotiate with a bargaining group. Nor will it override any existing legal or contractual obligations between the parties, such as confidentiality clauses.

The class exemption will be available for businesses to use in early 2021. This is because now that the ACCC has finalised the class exemption the instrument to enact the class exemption must be tabled in Parliament and is subject to a Parliamentary disallowance period of 15 days. Precisely when the disallowance period will end is dependent on the Parliamentary sitting dates for 2021, which have not been finalised yet.

Greening Australia Project Phoenix

I sit on the external steering committee that helps to guide Project Phoenix, which is being managed by Greening Australia, and funded by the Federal Government Department of Agriculture. The purpose of the Grant is to increase native seed and plant supply in preparation of bushfire affected areas and conservation of other valuable habitat. Please refer to the article in this GIA news for more detail and how to get involved if you are a native plant nursery.

Statistics Project

This is one of our more mainstream projects and the surveying period will cease in the next week or so. To provide statistically accurate information, we still need greater participation to reach at least 300 surveys nationally – as of this week we hit the 200 survey mark so need around 100 more to be completed.

The power of the statistics should not be underestimated as they provide the essential data and information to represent and advocate for our industry to all levels of government as well as demonstrating the size and importance of nursery to Australia. Participating and completing the survey helps production nursery businesses better manage business and financial record keeping.

If you have been or are contacted to complete the survey, then please do so. I appreciate the stranger and busier than normal year we've all had but the better the statistics, the better our industry.

Please contact me at ceo@greenlifeindustry.com.au if you would like to provide comments or have questions on the activities of Greenlife Industry Australia.

Regards

Peter Vaughan
CEO - Greenlife Industry Australia