This is a transcript of a complete interview with Australian Dairy Farmers president Rick Gladigau, which took place on Friday. There have been some minor edits for readability and Mr Gladigau said he was happy to be recorded for accurate notetaking.
The article, which explains the background to the interview, can be read at Gladigau unapologetic but learnt his lesson.
Interviewer: Tell me, what sparked all this off? There was a comment in The Weekly Times that seems to have brought about something of a cascade. What did you mean by it?
Mr Gladigau: We do have different opinions as directors, but we work collaboratively to turn things for the better and, across the industry, we need to be collaborative, to be able to achieve doables. So, I basically say that my public comments over the new ADF board have probably been taken out of context and probably taken the wrong way, which is the way that it looks and I've learnt my lesson, it's not going to happen again.
Interviewer: What did you mean? If you want to set the record straight and put it back in context, what was the context of that comment?
Mr Gladigau: I think I've basically answered it. It's been taken the wrong way and to what it says and, and, and my thing now is, that's been and we've got to be positive, we've got to be constructive and respectful to each other. That's part of our culture, which we've talked about as a board and I need to lead by example, so that's how I look at it and that's how it is.
Interviewer: Right, so when you were saying about people not being able to walk in and change things, what things did you mean?
Mr Gladigau: It's all about the discussion and, as I've just said, as a board, we've got to be working more collaboratively together and respecting that we're going to have different opinions on the board and that's how we come to conclusion on discussions that we do, so that's how I see it.
Interviewer: So are you saying that some were not working as collaboratively as you would have liked?
Mr Gladigau: I'm not saying that at all.
Interviewer: I'm just trying to get down to tin tacks because I'm a little bit confused about what you meant by the comment or, when you say it was taken out of context, what it was that you were trying to get at? Because that didn't sound like a comment that says we need to work more collaboratively, that was talking about change.
Mr Gladigau: It's about understanding where we all are, we're all different and, and we've got different opinions of it. So, that's sort of, I mean it's one comment out of the whole interview that I did but, like I said, people take it how they wanted to take it but, as a board, we respect each other's thinking, and their opinions and we'll work forward. So that comment's out there, it's done and dusted and I'm moving on. So lesson learned, in the whole show and move forward.
Interviewer: Right? So you would like to be able to walk back that comment? You said that you stood by it.
Mr Gladigau: I'm not saying I'm going to walk back, I said, I've already done it. I've learned the lesson that it can be misconstrued. I've learned that careful what you say because things can be taken out of context, so that's how it is, so from here on, again, it's out there, I can't take it back and can't erase it or anything like that. And lesson learned, I'm moving forward, I've got things to do.
Interviewer: Okay, these two new business directors have stood on pretty much a ticket of change or promise of change. What do you think needs to change, if anything?
Mr Gladigau: What do I think needs to change? Oh, look, I've been around a long time, but there's plenty that we're doing and we do a lot right.
We've basically just got a brand new strategic plan that's been signed off on, so that's setting our goals going forward as to what we need to do for the next three years. We've been working on that over the last 12 months or so to get that together. So we tip out really good policies, and what the staff do, there's not many of them, but they do really well, so most things are really good that we currently are doing and I mean, you know what social media's like, people have got an idea of what ADF should be doing or whatever. The Dairy Plan was part of that.
That's still on the table and and there's a lot about how should ADF look going forward, but that's not something that we plan on going, well, here's the whole new structure of ADF. That will come, I've got a brand new, fairly new, board there.
We've already got, well, I've got a list of things, I've got two-thirds of a page of stuff written down of all the things that we need to do so far that is sitting there and that's just part of that. So it won't be instant change on the structure, but it's certainly in the pipeline, it hasn't gone away. It was in the Dairy Plan and we'll work towards that.
We're still talking climate change issues and how we deal with that. We've got the labour shortage on and you would have seen a press release about that, that we've just achieved.
We've got a federal election coming up, so we've got a election platform already put together for that, which, on the board meeting on Tuesday, we'll see the final draft of that as well. So, there's plenty for us that we've got to do going forward. So, I don't know so much about that things won't evolve, they will evolve over time but that just doesn't happen on day one.
Interviewer: So, in terms of the structure, how would you like to see dairy advocacy change?
Mr Gladigau: I think we do it really well. I mean, there's certainly that call for direct membership, so that's one of many options and it's something that I still want to drill into a bit more.
People talk about setting up advocacy for the 21st century. So how does that look? How's that going to look, how does that operate? How does that bring people along?
Direct membership is fine to talk about. End of the day, it's got to be paid for in some way, shape or form. So, as well, that's not saying I'm against it, I actually think there's a lot of positives towards that but that's only one part of the structure that we need to go, there's no point changing the model if we go, it's just the same old model with a reshape in it with a bit of rubber here and there. So what is advocacy going forward for the 21st century that gets people to want to be part of it going forward and what does that structure look like so as well?
Interviewer: Have you been in contact with the two new business directors since the social media discussion on the article?
Mr Gladigau: Yep.
Interviewer: What sort of reception did you get?
Mr Gladigau: Like I said, we're a team and we've got to work together. We're a brand new team as well. So I consider things are all good. We know where we stand and and we collaborate together to do our role for the industry.
Interviewer: Have you got confidence in their capability?
Mr Gladigau: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. These guys bring different skill sets and some have got more board experience than others. Some have had business experience, so, no, I think they have certainly got a lot to offer as well.
Interviewer: Are you guys going to release the results of the vote?
Mr Gladigau: No, the board's have already spoken about it last week, and I don't intend to release the results or we don't intend to release the results of what the election was.
Interviewer: Why is that?
Mr Gladigau: Because history says we don't do it. Last year we did do it but it was only given there was issues with first time dealing with technology and voting that way. History says we don't and as part of my attitude towards culture, there was winners and losers.
And I think it's unfair on the people who presented to openly put out what their voting was, but it's obviously one and I really don't see what the issue is, why do people like to see, oh, Joe Bloggs got X number of votes and Joe Bloggs got X number of votes against them.
People accept the elected are the ones who got the votes, so I don't see why there's to be more than that.
Interviewer: That's the normal democratic process, though. In any other form of politics, you get to see the vote. Why is ADF different?
Mr Gladigau: That's the way that it's always been done. To be fair to those guys who put their hands up, and they all volunteered to stand for election, is that there was nothing in the process that says that we would release the votes.
So down the path, it's probably going to be a board discussion as to whether we do have that and we do tell the candidates that that will happen but, under the current way that it's been run, we don't release it.
Interviewer: Were you happy with the voter numbers, were there enough votes cast?
Mr Gladigau: It's actually probably a positive of the whole post-COVID times is that having voting online is actually far better. We've got members right around Australia. They're not all going to fly to Melbourne to turn up at an AGM, so online voting has certainly given people pre-poll voting and had a couple of days to do it and the majority of people did. So I think we're all happy with the turnout and and and the way that it went as a result.
Interviewer: How many votes were there, do you know?
Mr Gladigau: Not off the top of my head, no.
Interviewer: Another thing I've seen online is that there's been a request for director remuneration to be made public. Is that something you're happy to do?
Mr Gladigau: That's all part of the AGM, it's all in there, we actually voted on what the director remuneration is.
Interviewer: And how much do directors get paid?
Mr Gladigau: I think it's set, it was voted on, it's at a max of $150,000 across the directors.
Interviewer: Do you mean in total? Or do you mean each?
Mr Gladigau: Total directors, not each, that's total. That was voted on by the members. It's voted on every year at the AGM what the total remuneration package for directors is.
Interviewer: Yeah, okay. Do you think that you need to rebuild bridges to ensure you've got the confidence of the board or are you feeling comfortable?
Mr Gladigau: I'm comfortable, I'm certainly comfortable. So okay, like I've already said about it, so I'm comfortable with where we're at. As a board we had a good discussion on our first board meeting and which we've covered a lot of different topics. And we've got three new people sitting there that that all participated in it and it was all good.
Interviewer: What do you think you will do differently as president to your predecessor?
Mr Gladigau: Do differently? What would I do differently? I consider myself a listener to people and I'm always I'm always here for feedback and I've certainly had that lately.
So Terry did an excellent job during his period. He did deal through a lot of issues, that's for the mandatory code and Dairy Plan that he's had to lead industry through. So he's done really well at it. I hope to be able to continue that.
And like I said, I look at it and go, well, when I watched the Gardiner Foundation leadership webinar six weeks or so ago, they got a lot of young people who were talking about being part of the industry about buying farms, you know, even about just training to be an AI technician and sort of got me thinking,
Well, I remember being that age, I do remember going into my first AI course and being able to AI my own cows and, actually, that's what prompted me to think that's why I do this role for - it's so that these people can can be farmers, that they can achieve what their aims are in the industry.
So I think that's what people did when I was younger, they took on these roles to do exactly that. So that's what my goal is, is that these young people are going to be able to keep farming, they're going to be able to buy the farms, they're going to be our AI technicians and, hopefully, as well be successful in the industry.
Interviewer: Okay. That strategic plan that you talked about, was that the one specific to ADF or was that the DA one?
Mr Gladigau: No, that's ADF's strategic plan.
Interviewer: Is that going to be publicly available?
Mr Gladigau: Well, probably within reason it will be because National Council and that see it but as to how public that becomes, I can't tell you off the top of my head.
Interviewer: Why would that not be public?
Mr Gladigau: Oh, this is for the board to decide how public that will be. I'll let you know when I know.
Interviewer: Right. Would you be in favour of making it public?
Mr Gladigau: There's probably a possibility that there is value in people seeing our strategic plan, what we aim to achieve, so that's a possibility.
Interviewer: When will you know?
Mr Gladigau: Like I said, we've just gone through the process, so the paint's still drying on it. So like I said, we've got our new board and so we're just getting, you know, I've hardly even had a chance to put my feet under the table yet.
So this will be for the new board to also go through now but National Council has already had a look at it, so they're happy with it. So we've got a few little things to do as a board and as management, and then it will all be good.
Interviewer: What's on your election wish list?
Mr Gladigau: It covers everything, or it covers a lot. So like I said, the final draft I haven't actually seen, but it's about healthy people and a healthy planet, that's the title.
Interviewer: Yeah, but I'm not sure you can go to David Littleproud and say we want a policy that's healthy people, healthy planet. What do you actually want?
Mr Gladigau: It's that and it's the topics underneath it and they're the same things we just talked about. There's climate, there's labour, there's old people and having dairy in their diet. It's across the board, so covers multiple things.
Interviewer: Yeah. But what specific policies would you like them to adopt in order to progress your, your campaigns, I guess, your goals.
Mr Gladigau: Well, we've got the climate issue and how we're dealing with it and how we deal with greenhouse gas and carbon farming and that sort of stuff, so we deal with it. We've got the labour one where we're sort of getting traction on that already, but we still need the labour force.
Interviewer: So going back to climate, what would you want them to do?
Mr Gladigau: It's recognising what we do so far as farmers, our input into our current farming practices, which I consider are pretty good, so we need to be recognised for that.
Interviewer: In what way? How would you want to be recognised? Do you want a pat on the head or do you want some financial reward?
Mr Gladigau: I think it's a bit more general. It's recognising that we were stewards of the land and that we do look after the land, so there's more work being done on on what we're doing, and how that works with the environment.
So it's not so much to say a pat on the head, but it's to recognise the work that we do and we don't want government to, say, come down hard on on farming or whatever it is that we're not doing the right thing, because we certainly do. I don't think the government will come down that way anyway.
Interviewer: So you want some exemptions? Is that what you're saying?
Mr Gladigau: I look at it more as recognition. Let's recognise what we're doing and then what do we need to do better? Recognise what we are doing and what we're already contributing and then we can build it from there. But like I said, it'll be in the policies. They're still working on a final version of that.
Interviewer: Okay. And labour, what specifically do you want them to do about labour?
Mr Gladigau: Well, we just had that media release about the visas and recognising staff and how they can be employed now. So in relation to dairy, so we've got that. We have a size of labour.
Everyone's looking for skilled labour and a skilled workforce, so it's training people as well. And some people talk to me about how they need housing that sort of stuff in regional areas. Obviously the government isn't going to supply housing, but how do we make it all work?
Interviewer: So what are you asking the government to do, what's your plan to make it all work?
Mr Gladigau: I'm not going into that right now.
Interviewer: Okay. And dairy in the diet was the third one that you mentioned. What would you like to have the politicians do about that?
Mr Gladigau: We had the food tables or whatever and value and there's been plenty about the value of dairy in the diet and osteoporosis and that for old people that some nursing homes etc, that dairy's got left out of being a part of their diet, as well.
Interviewer: How do you want the politicians to ensure that doesn't happen?
Mr Gladigau: It's recognising the value of it to make sure that dairy is recognised as part of the diet.
Interviewer: What form should that recognition take?
Mr Gladigau: Well, it's about looking after people in a nursing homes then or their retirement village or whatever and they've got access to, that their diet does include dairy so it's that dairy is considered as part of the the necessary food groups that they're getting.
Interviewer: So do you want government to mandate that age facilities include dairy in the diet? Is that what you're saying?
Mr Gladigau: I'm saying we'll get recognition of it.
Interviewer: But how, what is recognition?
Mr Gladigau: I think it's going far further than what we were going to initially.
Interviewer: Alright, thanks Rick, I appreciate it.
Mr Gladigau: It'll be in the policy statement so, once it's released, I'm sure you'll be able to see a copy of it.
Interviewer: Alright, I appreciate your time. Thanks again, Rick.
Mr Gladigau: Thank you, bye.
READ MORE: Gladigau unapologetic but learnt his lesson.
Writing for farmers in the Stock & Land, The Land, Queensland Country Life, Stock Journal and FarmWeekly, farming in Gippsland.
Writing for farmers in the Stock & Land, The Land, Queensland Country Life, Stock Journal and FarmWeekly, farming in Gippsland.
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