Tuesday, 1 December 2015
I rise tonight to talk about a business in my local town, Bindaree Beef. In the mid-1990s, the town of Inverell in northern New South Wales was facing a bleak future. North West Exports abattoirs, owned by the Smorgan family, closed down throwing hundreds of people out of work. The abattoir was the district's largest employer but, from time to time, was affected by strikes and also poor water supply. The busiest place in town after the closure was the Commonwealth Employment Service, as men and women of all ages registered for jobs that did not exist in the town, which, at that time, had a population of around 10,000. The processing plant was old and in much need of refurbishment so it seemed a forlorn hope that it would ever be reopened.
Then, thankfully, along came the McDonald family, more particularly John McDonald, or J.R. as everyone knows him. J.R. admits he was warned not to touch Inverell; there were too many problems. But if there is one thing I have learnt in the years I have known J.R. McDonald, it is that he has never walked away from the tough decisions or challenges, and so the name 'Bindaree Beef' suddenly became part of Inverell's business life. The abattoir reopened and people were invited to apply for jobs. It was made clear to all and sundry that, if you wanted a job, you had to be drug and alcohol free, the work was hard and it was all about teamwork.
That was 20 years ago, and there have been plenty of times since then when J.R. and his family must have wondered whether it was all worth it. The plant was old, finance to modernise the plant was hard to get, and costs were crippling. But they never gave up. Today, Bindaree Beef employs in excess of 800 people—I think, around 850—and that is not taking into account all the people who depend on their existence: cattle producers, stock agents, trucking companies, even job agencies. In those 20 years, Bindaree Beef has processed 5.2 million cattle, employed over 7,000 people and paid over $750 million in wages and salaries—that is, three-quarters of a billion dollars. Returns to cattle producers have topped $5 billion, there have been 225,000 truck movements in and out of the meatworks, and beef is exported to 70 countries. J.R. McDonald, from day one, has been a strong advocate for the cattle producer. Countless times he has said that his business would not exist if beef producers did not make money and therefore stay in business. He also has been a regular contributor to parliamentary inquiries, giving his view as to where the red meat industry could do better.
The company is undertaking a major development with the building of its biodigester plant at its Inverell site. It will be a highly effective waste-treatment system that will produce biogas and liquid fertilizer, generating power and steam for on-site use. The biodigester will use less electricity and steam.
In recent months, Bindaree Beef has made some exciting announcements. In July, Bindaree merged with meat marketing and distribution company, Sanger, closely followed by the $25 million purchase of Myola feedlot at North Star, which is to the north of Warialda. The merger with Sanger allows processing integration with sales, and the acquisition of the feedlot gives them a level of control over their beef supply. In October, Bindaree was delighted to announce that a Chinese partner had been found to inject $140 million into the business, which is a 45 per cent stake. The $140 million will be mostly spent at the Inverell plant on technology changes in freezing, chilling and boning. This opens up a whole new world for Bindaree Beef.
Bindaree's Chief Financial Officer, James Roger, credited the Australian government's determination to open up market access in China as playing a valuable role in the Bindaree-Shandong Delisi Food Company alliance. He said Bindaree had been involved in a number of trade delegations led by ministers Barnaby Joyce and Andrew Robb, and, along with the free-trade agreement, this had led to a better understanding of the Chinese market.
Last Saturday night, we had a function celebrating 20 years of Bindaree Beef and about 250 people attended. I would like to congratulate the McDonald family for the magnificent job they have done in establishing the meatworks over 20 years. They have certainly been through some dry gullies. I congratulate J.R. McDonald and his wife, Norma; their son, Andrew; and also their daughter, Kerri Newton, and her husband, John. They have done a magnificent job competing in a very tough industry against the multinationals—JBS Swift, Teys Cargill, Nippon. This family-owned meatworks has just been so tremendous for our town—850 people employed. They are bidding on the stock market, putting money into the farmers' and beef producers' products. I commend them for the magnificent job they have done. I hope they keep it going.