Hot topics

scroll down for the latest news from the weekly updates here:

This week's topic:

AN UPDATE FROM MONIT - compliance and certification

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An update from Monit - compliance and certification

Monit is an online managed online Workplace Health and Safety Management System. They have kindly provided this update:

As big corporate muscles in on the Australian Small and Midsize Enterprise (SME) landscape there are some disturbing trends developing.

Their presence is to deliberately influence our business language and bring about legislation benefiting their shareholders at your expense. In particular, they have chosen a couple of words which the business world believe are facts.

COMPLIANCE
This word is used extensively by WHS provider companies selling you their wares but it has no influence on the courts determination. When one of these companies says you’re compliant, you’re not. The only thing your business is compliant with is the third party’s commercial product or service. You cannot be compliant with the Act. You can adhere to, and meet the Act, but at no time are you compliant.

CERTIFICATION
As with the word compliant, certification is also used extensively by WHS provider companies and, as with compliance, it has no influence in a court of law. Businesses paying excessive yearly fees to third party WHS companies in exchange for these certificates are simply throwing their money away on false hope. These certificates only guarantee you satisfy the provider’s commercial product and not the Act. The most common certification is one called AS4801. The AS stands for Australian Standard which is a designed to influence our thinking in believing Australia has a standard. Well, we don’t. We have an Act. In court standards are never referenced or accepted as sufficient evidence a company is doing the right thing. This play on words has confused an already confused market and yet businesses continue to accept it as a required WHS benchmark. 

Everything we do, and money we spend on our business on health and safety is to avoid having to answer to a magistrate. So here is the reality. In court, the Act is the only reference used. In court, the only accepted item to mitigate your culpability is evidence. This evidence must prove, that as a company, you have adhered to the Act. For good reason compliance and certification are never referenced.

Monit has defended the SME’s rights on many occasions by calling out large organisations who demand SME’s gain a certification number from these third party WHS products in order to satisfy a contract or tender.

Because the WHS Act is a statutory law no company, including government departments, can demand a business gain any form of certification to satisfy a tender or contract. This would remove the statutory rights of the business and render any issuing documents invalid.

If you have a tender or contract which demands a certification number Monit would be happy to hear from you.  
www.monit.com.au

NEW LIGHTnING VIEWER

The Bureau of Meteorology has released a 'cracking' new lightning viewer available at satview.bom.gov.au

This lightning detection service has been added as a viewing option or 'layer' for the Bureau’s high definition Himawari satellite cloud viewer and is updated every 10 minutes.

The Bureau's General Manager Data Dr Anthony Rea said the addition of a near real-time information lightning service can help people seek safety in advance of an approaching thunderstorm.

“Lightning is dangerous. It is associated with thunderstorms and can occur well away from the storm’s centre," Dr Rea said.

“Adding the new lightning layer to the satellite infrared cloud image will also help Australians living in remote areas with limited radar coverage to identify severe weather and track thunderstorms."

The Bureau’s viewer shows the frequency of lightning ranging from two to more than 20 strikes every ten minutes. It also shows the most recent four hours of lightning data consistent with the satellite cloud image updates.

The lightning coverage is Australia-wide and extends into the surrounding high seas.

Users can zoom into to an area only slightly bigger than that of New South Wales. They can also select viewing options that add coastal and state boundaries, as well as roads and cities, to show where lightning has struck.

An animation of the new lightning detection viewer is available at www.media.bom.gov.au/download

our NEW training and education co-ordinator

Greetings from the Victorian Farmer’s Federation’s brand new Training and Education Co-ordinator, David Broman.  

David is an ideal candidate for our new role of training and education coordinator, with his extensive experience in training and education delivery for multiple organisations, most recently the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

David has a background in project managing training and development programs in rural and remote Australia. He holds a Master’s in Education – regional education and community development, which will be a fantastic resource for us in helping to develop our own 'community' of farmers.

With your help and input through David, we want to support you with a strong and reliable, long-term education strategy.

All commodities are undergoing changes and we want to make sure our members have the best opportunity to benefit – education is a key component of the future of Victorian farming.

 “The focus of my role is to create a long-term, sustainable education strategy that works with each commodity to identify and explore learning opportunities that lead to increased revenue for our farmers. I am keen to hear from any members who would like to be involved in the development of our VFF education strategy.

"Your input is vital if we are to develop a plan that will support a profitable and sustainable future for you and the next generations of Victorian farmers.” said David.

If you would like to contact David and provide some input into the strategy contact:
dbroman@vff.org.au
Ph: 03 9207 5517

 

Natasha Lobban - new President VFF Wangaratta AND DISTRICT branch.

Not only is Natasha Lobban one of the youngest presidents of any VFF branch, she is a young mum, businesswoman and farmer. 

Aged just 31, she is mum to Harriet – eight months and is also a free-lance journalist and communications specialist. Together with her husband Dean, they run Angus beef cattle on 600 acres at Eldorado. 

Natasha was exposed to the VFF through discussions with Dean and his father and was keen to get involved in the branch as a way to honour her late father-in-law, Ian, who passed away four years ago.

Ian Lobban was a well-respected and extremely well-known member of the community and had been heavily involved with the VFF and other local committees for many years.

“We used to hear about the VFF over the kitchen table, so we became keen to get involved.” she said.

Natasha is passionate about continuing the good work the branch has been doing over the past three years under the leadership of Greg Mirabella.

This active and progressive VFF branch has been instrumental in campaigning for a number of issues within the local community and are proud of achieving some great outcomes, such as:

Re-introducing rural wards to the Rural City of Wangaratta, to give rural people more of a say at local council level
Upgrading the Wangaratta saleyards with a new roof
Campaigning successfully for a Senate red meat enquiry after the Barnawatha boycott.

Natasha acknowledges the former President as a great leader and huge support. As Greg is now taking over the Secretary’s role, previously held by Natasha, she is hoping to continue to benefit from his great knowledge and experience. 

The Wangaratta and District VFF branch is in a very strong position into the future with seasoned members, George  Dimopoulos and Marty Corboy, also remaining on the executive.

As for future issues, Natasha is keen to continue on with the campaigning for the future of the saleyards and its management, and is hoping to introduce more events geared to young farmers, to get them involved at a social level.

“I’m keen to have guest speakers who can give valuable business management and advice on innovative farming practices.

“I’d like to open the group up to members from all types of farming. There’s so many different industries in the area now. It’s important that everyone feels welcome to attend and that they can all get something out of the events”, she said.

Natasha also feels it’s important for the younger members of the community to get involved so that the knowledge and experience of our older farmers can be passed down to the new generation.

With Natasha at the helm and with the support of her seasoned executive, the Wangaratta and District VFF branch can be assured of a bright future.

PUT SAFETY FIRST AND GET YOUR REBATE today

Quad bikes are the leading cause of deaths on farms in Australia. Don't delay, get a roll over protection device or a safer alternate side-by-side vehicle today, then apply for our Quad Bike Safety Rebate Scheme.

The scheme now has over 2000 approved applicants at a value of 1.8M. That's 2000 farmers who are now far safer when riding their quad bikes and 2000 families who feel their loved ones are more protected from a serious farm accident.

We strongly urge anyone who hasn't put in a claim as yet to send us their application.

If you are in doubt about why you should protect yourself, you only have to look at the recent spate on injuries and death throughout Australia - see Worksafe's recommendations here.

Get an OPD or a safer alternate side-by-side vehicle today - your family will thank you.

Background:
The Quad Bike Safety Rebate Scheme is administered by us on behalf of the Victorian State Government. We are proud that there are now 2,000 people in the state who have a far safer farming operation.

The scheme is scheduled to run for three years and has $6M allocated to rebates. We strongly urge all farmers, not just VFF members, to get in contact with us to see if you are eligible. The ex tax cost of the basic OPD is usually fully covered by the scheme. You can go online for further info at www.bequadsafe.com.au or email bequadsafe@vff.org.au or call 1300 945 030.

Apply for yours today and be quad safe.

Upgrades to the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program

Message from Dr Jane Weatherley, Chief Executive Officer, Integrity Systems Company  

I am writing to inform you of some important changes being introduced to enhance and strengthen the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program. Coming into effect on 1 October 2017, the changes will help to further safeguard Australia’s enviable status as a world leader in red meat safety, integrity and traceability. 

From 1 October 2017: 
1. Two new modules will become requirements of LPA accreditation: on-farm biosecurity and animal welfare practices. 

2. LPA-accredited producers will need to renew LPA accreditation every three years. As part of this, producers will need to complete an assessment and pay a $60 (plus GST) fee every three years. 

3. Online learning modules will be available to help producers understand their obligations.
 
4. A free electronic LPA National Vendor Declaration (LPA eNVD) will be available.  

The changes are designed to ensure Australian red meat maintains its global reputation and stays ahead of its competitors. They will ensure our integrity system continues to meet customer expectations, and will give producers the evidence to stand by what they sell. 

I hope the information below answers any questions you have, however please don’t hesitate to contact us on lpa@mla.com.au or phone the hotline 1800 683 111 for additional information. 
 
What do producers need to do? 
Before 1 October, LPA-accredited producers need to:
Familiarise themselves with the new biosecurity and animal welfare requirements. To do this it is recommended producers complete the learning modules available from July to ensure their on-farm systems meet these new program requirements.

From 1 October:
Complete the assessment and pay the $60 (plus GST) fee, when their three- yearly accreditation is due. Producers will be contacted approximately two months before their LPA accreditation is due and given instructions for working through the new process online. For some producers, this will not happen until 2019.

On-farm biosecurity requirements 
From 1 October 2017, accredited LPA producers will need to have a Farm Biosecurity Plan to:

• minimise the risk of introducing and spreading infectious diseases on their properties 
• manage and record the introduction and movement of livestock
• control and record people, equipment and vehicles entering the property, where practical and reasonable
• control and regularly monitor livestock health on farm
• ensure all livestock movements between owners are accompanied by an Animal Health Statement (or equivalent).  

Those producers who have developed a Farm Biosecurity Plan as part of their approach to Johnes's Disease (JD) management under the J-BAS program can use that Farm Biosecurity Plan to meet LPA program requirements. A specific learning module to guide producers through LPA’s on-farm biosecurity requirements will be available in July. 

Producers looking for more information on Johne’s disease management and transitional arrangements for J-BAS are urged to visit the Animal Health Australia website, who are delivering the changes on behalf of Cattle Council of Australia.

More information: 
Website: LPA biosecurity requirements 
Factsheet:
LPA biosecurity requirements  
A farm biosecurity plan template
 
Frequently asked questions

Animal welfare requirements
From 1 October 2017, LPA accredited producers will need to demonstrate that their on-farm handling of livestock is consistent with the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines (S&Gs).

Those responsible for livestock management will need to have a copy of the S&Gs, be familiar with its content, complete the LPA learning module (or equivalent training), and advise and oversee others handling livestock in a manner that is consistent with the S&Gs.

More information: 
Website 
Standards and Guidelines
LPA animal welfare requirements
Frequently asked questions

Assessment and accreditation 
From October 2017, producers will be required to renew their LPA accreditation once every three years, and will need to complete a short assessment to do this. 

New animal welfare and biosecurity learning modules will become a part of the LPA Learning from October 2017. These are available online but also in hard-copy, for those producers who can't access the LPA learning online, at a cost of $20 plus GST. 

Renewing the accreditation of the 215,000 livestock producers currently involved in LPA will be a gradual process, with all producers expected to complete the assessment and renew their accreditation by 2020. As previously mentioned, producers will be contacted approximately two months before their LPA accrediation is due and given instructions for working through the new process online. 

More information:
Frequently asked questions
LPA Learning modules

We’re delivering this information to you from Meat & Livestock Australia's Integrity Systems Company. If you would like assistance with these important changes, including completing a farm biosecurity plan, we can help. Please call Catherine James on 03 5444 9702 or email lhbv@vff.org.au.

UPDATE ON FARMERS FORUMS - BAIRNSDALE & OMEO

Farmers’ Forum Bairnsdale 

An issue was raised on Lindenow Valley being the site for a proposed mineral sands mine. 

I did a follow up visit the next day to the Lindenow Valley, which gave me the opportunity to speak to affected members on the process and avenues for them to best raise their issues.  

Our President, David Jochinke, will write to the relevant Minister to ensure VFF representation on community and technical working groups.

Another topic was the push for more action to get subsidies/PBS for Q fever.  I recommended they get a group together to minimise costs.

Examples of poor CFA-DELWP communication were discussed, which I will follow up by raising with the Land and Fire stakeholders group.

A discussion was also held around problems of labour – amnesty/extension for good workers.

Farmers’ Forum  Omeo

There was an excellent discussion with good examples on native vegetation.  Members will document this to assist us to lobby government.

Participants spoke about the difficulty in attracting labour, the idea of the possibility of a website to connect backpackers to jobs was floated, with more discussion and development needed.

A general discussion followed on wild dogs, deer and other pests.

The local community had great ideas about telecommunication and power – how local knowledge could be beneficial in resolving issues.  It’s great to see the community problem-solving these issues with our assistance.

I have quite a few issues to follow up from this event,  including problems with crown land mapping which is leading to hunters on private land grazed land.

Summary
Overall, two great forums where we were able to provide participants with knowledge, guidance and assistance where needed. In some cases we were able to empower our members and other participants to seek their own solutions. With others, we can use our influence to lobby government and our organisations resources to follow up for further information and advice.

Lisa Gervasoni
Senior policy adviser
lgervasoni@vff.org.au
  

Producer Update - J-BAS transition & LPA 

The Cattle Council of Australia is alerting producers to key changes in the transitional dates of on-farm biosecurity planning.

New biosecurity laws have shifted many of the costs and responsibilities for managing pests and diseases on to producers. As part of this transition, producers are now responsible for implementing on-farm biosecurity plans.

A biosecurity plan will be required for producers to gain or renew their Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) accreditation from 1st October 2017.In parallel, a new national biosecurity management approach to Johne's Disease (JD) in cattle has been developed by Animal Health Australia (AHA) and the Cattle Council of Australia.

The new approach to JD management in beef cattle has seen most states remove regulations. To assist cattle producers take responsibility for managing their on-farm risks, an important tool, called the Johne's Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS), has been developed.

An on-farm biosecurity plan is also required for J-BAS. The same on-farm planning template will be used for LPA and J-BAS, with producers who have a focus on JD being required to complete the optional questions on JD.  

The J-BAS system works on a set of scores measured off a producer’s previous exposure to JD and their preparedness in managing their risk.  An outline of the score system can be found here:

The Northern Territory (NT) and Western Australia (WA) have legislated minimum J-BAS entry requirements that include a biosecurity plan and, in the case of WA, herd testing.

To maintain J-BAS 7, producers must have a biosecurity plan overseen and signed by a vet by 1st July 2017 and have undertaken a 'check test' (50 samples) with clear results by 1st July 2018, or they automatically move to a J-BAS 6. 

The default position for any producer will be J-BAS 6 unless they have prior JD infection in the last 5 years, in which case they should then self-assess as per the J-BAS criteria.

Cattle travelling to Western Australia will need to be J-BAS 7 or 8, and meet other entry requirements as set out in the health certificate for movement of stock to Western Australia (LB1 form).

Cattle travelling to the NT from 1 July 2017 will need to be J-BAS 6 and accompanied by a Cattle Health Declaration from the property of origin. There is no need for vet endorsement or testing. It is recommended that for any cattle transaction within the production system, a National Cattle Health Declaration should be supplied by the vendor and requested by the buyer (cattle being sent direct to slaughter may not require this). Click here for the National Cattle Health Declaration form.

Further information:
Livestock Production Assurance program
LPA information can be found here   

Johne’s Beef Assurance Score
J-BAS information can be found here  

On-farm biosecurity templates 
Click here for a biosecurity plan template  that can be used to develop an on-farm biosecurity plan that will meet the requirements of LPA (therefore automatically, J-BAS provided the JD section is completed.

For further details contact Cattle Council of Australia  on cca@cattlecouncil.com.au or 02 6269 5600

Love your sister - big heart project

This week's hot topic, is more about amazing community spirit and our staff's involvement in this fundraising project.

Our staff here are not only brilliant at what they do, they love getting involved in community projects.

Many of you will know Lisa Gervasoni, one of our senior policy advisers.  Lisa, is a Daylesford girl, Samuel and Connie Johnston were also brought up in the town. An instant connection.

Having been involved in LYS from its infancy, Lisa feels she has adopted Sam and was there for the start of his 2016 uni-cycle ride around Australia, hosted him during it and planned his local homecoming, complete with brass band.  

Here's a letter from Samuel Johnson which explains the birth of this latest Love Your Sister project:

BEHIND HER HEART - written by the most chuffed little brother in the land, Samuel Johnson.



Why this pic? Partly because I can't stop looking at it. Partly because it showcases the togetherness shown at Connie's Big Heart Project yesterday. But mostly because we aren't a fluffy charity. Sure, we swim in the joy and hope, but true hearts contain more than fluffy bits, right? So let's swing gently past the fairy floss if that's cool?

About a year ago, Love Your Sister was in a different place. We were dying fast, basically. Once my unicycling odyssey was complete, I took on 3 acting projects back to back. A 6 part doco on Hipsters for SBS, a touring production with my now defunct theatre company and a Molly Meldrum telemovie. During all this I still pounded the pavement at community fundraisers every weekend and did as much as possible in between (including writing our book with Con), but the fundraising was tanking and we were cactus without a significant turnaround. Too many failed campaigns in a row. Too many hours playing pretend on telly. To be a chance, something had to give. I felt retirement offered the only solution. I have a full understanding of what it takes to raise a single mill and the $10M wasn't going to raise itself. It was all in or fold. It was a no brainer that required no thought. Just one clear path.

I rang Connie in despair. I challenged her to start exploiting her profile. She was a very well known cancer advocate with a huge support base and she was doing wonderful things in advocacy and science, but the fact remained that we needed cash to both survive and reach our fundraising target. I remember saying to her 'pick a number. Any number. Just make it higher than $100,000, and call me when you know how you're going to raise it.'

She rang me the very next morning, no less, and pitched her idea. Before she had even gotten half way through, I knew she had it. It was perfect. I couldn't offer any improvements, which I'm always on the lookout for. It was beautiful. Quirky. Simple. The ask was tiny. It would market itself and had all the hooks the media require. I told Connie it was simply flawless and proudly labelled her a serial genius.

So began what is now Connie's Big Heart Project. We pitched it to our mates at Questacon (a science and tech centre in Canberra run through the Dept Of Innovation and Science) and they signed on immediately. They had contacts at The Royal Australian Mint, so we went together and pitched it successfully there. Bendigo Bank loved it and jumped on board too. It was the most seamless team-build I've ever experienced. Why? Because Connie's epic masterplan was truly sublime.

For me, yesterday wasn't just a fundraising campaign. It wasn't just a chance for the villagers to say goodbye to Connie. It wasn't just her way of saying thanks to all who choose to care about the cancer conundrum and have supported her along the way. For me, yesterday will always be the day that Connie saved our village with a five cent piece. She built this place with a unicycle. And saved it with a five cent piece. That's my sister. Straight up.

But all of this is nought without you. Without you we have no heart. No village. No millions towards a cure. No togethernesses, like the one pictured here.

I hope this goes some way towards explaining just why you have my heartmost thanks for helping my sister find joy and hope during the most trying of circumstances.

I'm indebted and very truly yours.

Samuel Johnson xx

FAIR WORKERS APP

A new app just released by the Fair Work Ombudsman aims to prevent exploitation of young and migrant workers. ‘Record My Hours’, will help workers keep a record of their hours worked.  The app uses geofencing technology to register when the workers arrive at work and when they leave.

The aim is to tackle the persistent problem of underpayment of young workers and migrant workers around the country.
 
However, this app has a number of features that will also benefit the business community. It allows rosters and work-related notifications and reminders to be imported to a worker’s phone, reducing the number of late starts and absenteeism. The app is also available in 12 different languages which is particularly useful for those members who employ workers from migrant backgrounds. According to the Ombudsman, businesses can use the app to complement their own records, rather than replace them entirely.
 
Members are reminded that workplace laws require employers to keep accurate records of the hours their employees have worked. The Fair Work Ombudsman issues Infringement Notices to employers for contraventions of record-keeping and pay slip laws. Thus it is important to be proactive in your record keeping. If you fail to meet your legal obligations as an employer, this app is a tool that may be used by your employees to substantiate any claims.
 
For assistance regarding this matter, please contact the VFF Workplace Relations Department on 1300 442 481.

farmerS' FORUMS

This year we are taking a new approach to connecting with our members.
 
Instead of an annual conference, we will be holding 17 dinners in towns across Victoria.
 
We want your feedback and ideas to shape our policy so that we can represent your interests.
 
Come along to your regional forums, network with other farmers and agricultural professionals and tell us the policy areas that are most important to you.
 
The regional forums will take place at the following locations:

11 July - Warracknabeal
12 July - Hamilton
18 July - Ballarat
19 July - Terang
2 August - Yarra Valley
8 August - Geelong
9 August - Werribee

Native Vegetation Regulations – Your help needed

The Victorian Government has released its proposed changes to the Native Vegetation Regulations. It is likely that these changes will not improve outcomes for landholders. Click here to go the website.

The VFF has commenced discussions with Government about future projects to simplify outcomes in agricultural areas.  This will include a working group between DELWP, VFF and the Municipal Association. 

How can you help?
If you wish to make a submission contact lgervasoni@vff.org.au who can send you out key issues from the VFF submission which you may wish to include in a submission and the submission form.

Think about what vegetation you might need to remove in the next 5 to 10 years? What would you be prepared to protect and / or offset.  Make a copy of your farm from google and mark what is to be removed, protected and where revegetation could be.  Send a photo / scan to lgervasoni@vff.org.au – this will then be ‘delocated’ and used to test the new system.