WEDNESDAY, 25 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Murray Goulburn milk crisis.
JOURNALIST: Well today Barnaby Joyce released a support package from dairy farmers reeling from milk prices being slashed. But is the Agriculture Minister barking up the wrong tree?
VOICE OVER: More than half a billion dollars to try to save Australia's dairy industry, which has been crippled by falling milk prices. The majority of the Agriculture Minister’s package will goes to concessional loans, letting farmers transfer some of their debt from the bank to government books at a cheaper interest rate.
AGRICULTURE MINISTER BARNABY JOYCE: They have to prove to us they have been affected by this downturn in price and that won't be very hard because some people have gone from about 42 cents a litre for milk down to 14.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: That sends alarm bells ringing in my ears because up until now with these concessional loans the Government has not proved very successful.
VOICE OVER: Barnaby's plan will also offer dairy farmers $1,000 a fortnight in hardship payments, fund more Rural Financial Advisers and create a milk price index in the hopes they will see something like this coming in the future.
DAIRY FARMER, ALEX ROBERTSON: We’ll get to this time next year and be in the same boat. This will not solve any problems we're currently facing.
VOICE OVER: Meanwhile the eyes of the world are also on Barnaby.
JOHNNY DEPP: He looks somehow inbred with a tomato.
JOYCE: I'm inside his head, I'm pulling little strings and little levers and long after I've forgotten about Mr Depp, he is remembering me.
VOICE OVER: Thanks, Georgie. Heaps of people are hating on Barnaby Joyce today. The Shadow Agriculture Minister wants the Government to put pressure on Murray Goulburn to put the money it was going to pay its external investors back into farmers' pockets.
FITZGIBBON: In the prospectus for those investors it made it clear that in unusual and extreme circumstances, they could change the way profits were shared between the investors and the members of the cooperative, in other words the farmers.
VOICE OVER: But Murray Goulburn says this doesn't qualify as an abnormal situation. Meanwhile, shelves of brand name milk at many Coles and Woolies stores are still empty prompting social media to cry conspiracy, accusing supermarket chains of only stocking their generic brands. In a statement, both supermarkets say: They’re not refusing to restock; they’re just struggling to keep up with demand.
VOXPOP: This is a national problem, and we have to put Aussie farmers first.
VOICE OVER: Dairy farmers at the coalface protested across the country today, demanding relief from the financial stress that's driving them to desperation. So will today's package provide that relief?
JOURNALIST: In our story last week we heard from dairy farmer Adam Jenkins, who explained how unfair the price cuts are. Here is a reminder.
DAIRY FARMER, ADAM JENKINS: That's inexcusable. Could you imagine going into work and getting $150,000 and then your boss says almost towards the end of the year, actually, we've overpaid you by $50,000 and I'm going actually going to take it off next year's wage that I have?
JOURNALIST: Adam joins us again now. Adam, is this support package going to ease the pressure on farmers?
ADAM JENKINS: Look, let's be very clear, the two major processors that drop their price - that is still a big hit to farmers and we've always called for the two major processer to reverse their decision. Now that doesn't look likely, so the Federal Government we’ve been sitting down with the Federal Government and this package goes some way to relieving the pressure on some of farmers.
JOURNALIST: Let's look at where the lion's share of the package is. You've said that dairy farmers are good, solid business people. Does close to $1 million spent on financial advisers seem to you like a good spend?
JENKINS: Yeah, look, it is and we welcome that decision in terms of, we're finding now that even people who are right across their business, people are being forced into a debt situation. So we're looking at people who can sit down at their business and go through their business and triage where they can go to and maybe this concessional loan they can start accessing household income and things like that to get them through this little period. Let's be very clear, the world market is awash with milk at the moment so we're not immune to the global commodity and we need to be considerate of that.
JOURNALIST: I get it's really at the feet of the operators, I get the've created this problem for you and there are some things the Government just simply can't do about that but do you think they've done enough to put pressure on them to really make those processors feel like they have no choice? They've got to get serious about returning money to farmers and dealing with them on fair terms?
JENKINS: Definitely, I think that's one of the things as an industry, and farmer advocates, we’re calling for both state and federal governments, let’s go through the right channels, let's look at the ACCC I’m sure ASIC will find its way into the equation at some point in time I'm sure. Yer you’re right, we need this to stop.
JOURNALIST: And also consumers Adam, supermarkets are selling out of brand name products. Are you feeling the love for consumers?
JENKINS: Love the love and it has been absolutely fantastic. So to get up in the morning and milk your cows and then you see the things on Facebook where, you know, milk is selling out and cheese is selling out of those branded products, you know, get right behind it because we do feel the love. It puts a tickle up the back of my spine when you see people getting behind our communities.
JOURNALIST: I'm sure it has been a tough couple of weeks, Adam. We really appreciate you speaking with us.
JENKINS: Thanks for the opportunity, it has been great.