To the hard-working dairy farmers who get up before dawn every day so that the rest of us can enjoy milk on our cereal and in our morning coffees:
I understand that yesterday the dairy crisis grew a whole lot worse for you, your families and the local economy.
The further price cut we all feared was coming has arrived and many of you will now be wondering how to keep your head above water.
When the crisis first hit, I wrote to the Board of Murray Goulburn calling on them to invoke their power to return more money to you, the cooperative members, through a higher milk price. Barnaby Joyce refused to back Labor's call.
Yesterday the company did the opposite – cutting the milk price further instead of raising it.
We understand this must feel like a big slap in the face. After all, this isn't just any company – it's a cooperative you are part of.
Barnaby Joyce's silence throughout the crisis has been deafening. He has washed his hands of helping farmers to secure a better deal. Instead he delivered piecemeal relief after the fact – too little, too late.
What he won't tell you is that you have the power in your own hands to come together and improve your situation.
The Competition and Consumer Act allows small businesses and sole traders like you to bargain collectively with bigger firms when there is a public interest in doing so.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission can provide an authorisation for that bargaining to take place if it seems smaller businesses are getting a raw deal. Remember, the retailers and processes need you as much as you need them.
If you believe the current situation does not work for you, or support a strong local dairy industry that can continue providing Australians with the safe and reliable products they expect, then you have the power to push back. Labor believes there are ways of making this happen. But you need a government prepared to help.
Labor knows that individually each of you is strong, resilient and committed to your farm business. Combining that strength to get a fair milk price is a step we would encourage you to consider seriously.
Barnaby Joyce refuses to stand with you on this. Labor will because we put people first.