INAUGURAL ADIC DAIRY DINNER
WEDNESDAY, 1 OCTOBER 2014
***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***
Thank you Robert, I appreciated the chat we had today and indeed, the conversations I had with a number of the sector’s players.
For me, it’s been a week with a real dairy flavour although Barnaby and I missed out on an ice cream today.
We did though have our photo taken with someone both more productive and better looking than both of us. I think the cow’s name was Alicia?
And this morning I also had a phone conversation with one of my local producers. Not about farm-gate prices, costs, or even our retailers but rather, the fact that due to government inaction, we still have dairy cows crossing busy highways on their way to be milked.
Sorry, I tell a fib, he may have said something about costs, prices and retailers but it was mainly about the road.
And I’ll spend this coming long weekend in NSW on a dairy farm just outside my electorate.
Not milking, opening gates or re-positioning irrigation; but eating too much, enjoying one or two beers and watching the NRL Grand Final.
When I was younger I’d always attend the game, but when you pass through 50 it’s both safer and more informative to be on the farm.
You’ve had a few speakers tonight and I’ve been around long enough to know it’s not a time to talk for too long.
Rather, I want to briefly do just three things.
First, I want to acknowledge all my parliamentary colleagues present. Between us, we surely represent the lion’s share of the sector’s production.
Second, I acknowledge the sector’s leadership – ADF, ADIC and Dairy Australia – you’re all doing a very fine job.
I also acknowledge those in the room from the Department. They are, in my short experience as their Minister – world’s best.
Third, I congratulate you all on the presentation tonight of Australian Dairy Vision.
Few sectors would have been through as much change and challenge as the dairy sector has in its 225 year history.
And none would have demonstrated more resilience and determination.
Along the way you’ve had little government support, in relative terms, but through hard work, innovation, collaboration and strong leadership, you are still here and your future is bright.
I haven’t yet seen Australian Dairy Vision but today I had another look at your “Summit Outcomes Report” from earlier this year.
There I saw talk of a long term plan for profitability at the farm-gate and indeed, right along the supply chain.
I saw a plan for innovation, investment and growth.
I saw talk of collaboration and participation by every part of the chain – producers, processes and retailers.
What I didn’t see was a call for government help or indeed any attempt to blame others for your challenges, or any call for heavy government intervention or a hand out.
That is something of which you can all be very proud.
In this global and competitive environment, show me a sector which sees its future in government support and heavy intervention and I’ll show you a sector in trouble.
That is not to say there is not a role for government, there is.
It includes vigilance on government imposed costs and regulation.
It includes vigilance on issues surrounding market power and failure.
It includes government support in research, development and extension, education and bio-security.
And chief amongst them of course, it includes efforts on market access including the China Free Trade Agreement which, to be successful, must take us to New Zealand equivalence.
Call it the dining boom, food boom or even the Asian food bowl concept if you like, but the growing middle classes of Asia present us with an enormous opportunity.
But it won’t just come our way. Fully capitalising on those opportunities will take a lot of effort from you and the right decisions and sound strategic guidance from government.
And of course what’s good for the export sector is good for the domestic sector although, too much exposure externally does put us at the whim of the volatility of the international market, something we are presently all too aware of.
Let me assure you that Barnaby Joyce and I hold the same view on these issues. We’ve both said publically on many occasions now that we want to take agriculture out of the three-year political cycle.
We want to provide it with long term investment certainty and we both have our eye on the profitability of the sector.
The enthusiasm, energy and determination we see in the sector is infectious and motivates us, and all the local MPs here, to get behind you and we will.
That will be a good thing for you, a good thing for our economy, and a good thing for our country.