The Government has walked away from Australia’s dairy industry, refusing to allow the debate of a bill in the Senate that would secure milk prices for farmers and save an industry currently on its knees.
Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the refusal of the Government to allow a debate of Pauline Hanson’s Saving Australian Dairy Bill, introduced in the Senate this morning, shows the National Party has now officially turned its back on its rural constituency.
“If the Nationals don’t represent Australian dairy farmers, then who do they represent?” said Mr Fitzgibbon. “Nationals Senator Susan McDonald talked a big game last week when she described the dairy industry as ‘complete market failure’. But when given a chance to support a Bill that would create a fair farm gate price for milk, she abandoned our dairy farmers.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said the National Party Senators Perin Davey, Susan McDonald and Sam McMahon had a chance to support Senator Hanson’s Bill which would have created a minimum farm gate price for milk, so farmers would not be paid less for their fresh milk than the cost of producing it.
He said faced with a costs-price squeeze, dairy farmers were leaving the land in droves. Dairy Australia has confirmed the latest dairy farm number is 5,213, which is down from 7,924 a decade ago.
Labor supports a mandatory industry code of conduct which would protect farmers from the power imbalance between farmers and processors. Labor also took to the last election a policy to have a minimum farm gate price investigated, ensuring viability of dairy farming.
“Dairy farmers are on their knees in many parts of Australia and especially in Queensland,” Mr Fitzgibbon said. “The main problem is they can’t get a price for their fresh milk which ensures profitability. Senator Hanson’s Bill addressed this issue, but the Nationals have abandoned our farmers.”