Committee unsure about dairy public servant’s role, despite being paid $800 a day

By Shannon Jenkins

September 13, 2019

“It’s not us you’re smelling.” Unsplash

The person recently tasked with representing NSW’s dairy industry has no statutory powers despite earning $800 a day, a NSW Parliamentary committee has revealed.

Ian Zandstra was named the state’s first Fresh Milk and Dairy Advocate last week, without being subject to any formal processes.

The Budget Estimates committee on Tuesday also revealed that the job was not advertised, there was no selection criteria, and no formal interviews were held.

Labor’s Courtney Houssos questioned the Minister for Agriculture, Adam Marshall, on the nature of the appointment.

“I am just interested. This seems like there were discussions, there were no set criteria, there was no advertisement and it all came through your office instead of going to an independent process in the department, is that a correct characterisation?” Houssos asked.

Marshall denied this, and affirmed that “there was a lot of work that was done by the department”. Rather than a formal appointment process being held, Marshall argued there had been “a series of conversations and meetings with industry”, but no formal interviews.

It was revealed that the advocate would be treated as a public servant, and would not have any statutory powers, according to the Director General of Primary Industries, Scott Hansen.

“His powers are to consult with the industry, to form an advisory unit within the department that can shape both the department’s business extension activity and its research and development activities,” he said.

“So he is a conduit between the dairy industry in NSW, our researchers, our business extension officers, Dairy Australia or Dairy NSW to be able to provide a link through to them and a direct single point of contact for the dairy industry back into government, both with us and through to the ACCC.”

While Marshall confirmed that Zandstra would be able to make public statements, Labor was concerned that the advocate would be “subject to the same caveats on public statements as all public servants are”.

The committee was also concerned when it was revealed Zandstra had not yet signed a contract.

“We know they didn’t advertise the position, they didn’t have a process for accepting resumes and they didn’t have any formal job interviews. This isn’t the process taxpayers expect for an $800 a day job they’re paying for, ” Houssos said.

“The Nationals say they have appointed a commissioner but that’s not true. He hasn’t even signed his contract,” Shadow Minister for Primary Industries Jenny Aitchison added.

“Dairy farmers are getting ripped off, dealing with drought, and rising energy costs. They deserve better than another empty gesture from the Nats, because once our dairy farmers are gone, they aren’t coming back.”

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