TABLELANDS Regional Council Mayor Joe Paronella joined Liberal National Party Senator Susan McDonald on a visit to Canberra this week to highlight to the nation’s leading politicians the myriad of issues facing the dairy industry if farmers aren’t afforded more financial incentives for the milk they produce.
It was a visit that garnered plenty of attention from national media, and their desperate pleas to the powers that be have reverberated around the country.
“I’ve been talking to dairy farmers and processors right across the state – this is a very serious issue and it has only been since Coles introduced a dollar a litre milk on Australia Day in 2011 that this really started,” she said.
“Dairy farmers are being paid less than the cost of production, and that’s why I’m calling on the Regional and Rural Affairs and Transport Committee to hold a hearing to have Coles and Woolworths and the processors come to Canberra.
“Because if they won’t explain to their dairy farmers why they won’t pay them a fair price, then they should explain it to the Australian public.”
Senator McDonald said what the farmers are being paid now is unacceptable.
“There are well-documented cost of production audits happening,” she said.
“Coles and Woolworths and ALDI would be well aware of those documents – they know what the cost of production and need to be assuring themselves that they are sourcing milk in an ethical way and above the cost of production.
“This is not okay in Australia, and it’s especially not okay when they know dairy farmers are on their knees being starved every day.”
“I know that Australians want to pay more for their milk in the knowledge that it is going to dairy farmers, and the reason I know that is true is because the sales of branded milk, branded cheese and farmer-processor owned products are going up.”
Senator McDonald said she has made submissions to the Dairy Code of Conduct.
“A few things that are in there that are extremely important include the removal of exclusive contracts, no unilateral step down on prices and other technical issues which need to be addressed.”
Senator McDonald said The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission told her that a dairy floor price may not be able to be legislated under the constitution and would have taken as long as 18 months to implement.
“To put it simply, our dairy farmers don’t have that long, so that’s why we have to pressure the big supermarkets and processors to charge consumers more for milk and pass these increases on to farmers,” she said.
“That is the quickest and most effective way to solve the issue.”
Submissions have now closed on the Government’s Dairy Code of Conduct, and we will now assess the best framework to ensure farmers are dealt with fairly.
For more information on the Code, go to www.haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/dairy-code-conduct.
You can also have your say on the issue by visiting www.fairgofordairyfarmers.com.au