DANNY HAYES can think of nothing worse than adopting a “woe is me” attitude to life 12 months on from the government’s sudden decision to ban live exports to Indonesia last June, but he said there is no denying that times are difficult and making a living is precarious.
“I still don’t think the government understands what they did to the people in the cattle industry,” he said, of the abruptness with which Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig’s mandate to cease live cattle exports was put in place.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to recover from that sort of decision.”
This time last year Mr Hayes and his family were reeling from the speed with which a once-sound industry went off the rails.
The helicopter pilot and contract musterer had to reduce his business’ staff of 12 to two, and his family had to place their 20,000 acre station at Carbeen Park on the market.
Since then, Mr Hayes has found work as a livestock agent for Territory Rural, but he said his faith in the northern cattle industry has been irrevocably shaken.
“The amount of money and worry it’s cost us is huge, and I’m not the only one in that boat.”
He said while a lot of the blame lies squarely at the feet of a government which “can’t afford to look after their own people,” he also feels that industry body Meat and Livestock Australia has spent most of its time “ducking for cover” rather than working hard to revive the industry.
But the self-reflective cattleman said he and his kind could themselves have done more.
“We’re not being proactive enough either... nothing’s going to work perfectly with the National Lifestock Identification System and stunning first-off ...
“We need to be proactive and tell people what has been implemented and what’s been achieved.”
And Mr Hayes said while live export’s future is still very much uncertain, he would like a few simple steps to be taken.
“We need our representatives
organising ads and the use of social media to keep the general public
“Everybody in Australia at least needs to know the industry is fixing the problem.
“The government needs to be hauled over the coals and producers appropriately compensated, then get the meatworks going up north and let the public know what’s happening with the trade.
“It’s all gone quiet and that’s not helping anything.”
At 43 years old, Mr Hayes said he knows getting on with life is about a good mental attitude.
His wife Cathy has a clothing store at Fitzroy Crossing and he said while the retail climate is also somewhat depressed, between the two of them they are able to keep afloat.
But, he acknowledged that the way things stand he will be pushing his children – 12-year-old son Will and ten-year-old Hannah – to stay well away from the cattle industry.
“If people want to know how much faith you’ve got in your industry, get them to ask you what industry you’d like your kids to get into.
“Personally, I wouldn’t mind my son getting into the mining industry,” he said.
As for his current job as an agent, Mr Hayes said it is not far enough out of what he’s come to think of as a risky business.
“I don’t mind going down the agent track because I know cattle, but in general - after all that’s happened to cattlemen in the past 12 months - I’d prefer to be right away from the industry.”