SUBJECTS: Dairy industry, climate change policy, Labor preferences, Fiona Phillips’ campaign.
JOURNALIST: What are we here for today?
FIONA PHILLIPS, LABOR’S FEDERAL CANDIDATE FOR GILMORE: We have got Joel Fitzgibbon, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture here and we have been meeting with dairy farmers today. As we know we have huge issues in the dairy industry locally and I really invited Joel here to listen and to hear firsthand about those issues so we can do something about them.
JOURNALIST: What have the discussions today been about?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: It’s great to join Fiona here on the campaign trail of course and we are looking forward to her joining us in Canberra. I’m here having another roundtable with the dairy industry. I have been conducting these across the country. Our dairy farmers are in real trouble. We want to be a country that continues to make things – process and manufacture goods in this country. We want to be a country that has a strong dairy industry. We need that product. But the fact is that our dairy farmers are in real trouble and they have been in real trouble now for at least the last six years when their challenges have been exacerbated by drought. Yet the current government is sitting back and doing nothing about it. Sure they had an ACCC Inquiry which took 16 months. Now they have a draft Mandatory Code of Conduct which looks like it won’t be completed before the next election. They can do a Sugar Industry Code overnight by the way for Queensland cane growers but they are going to take months and kick this issue beyond the next election. We have been calling for a Mandatory Code of Conduct for five years. We should have had one now for at least four years and we remain supportive of it but a mandatory code is only as good its design and we need the government to get on and produce something that is going to be meaningful. But a Code of Conduct isn’t a panacea. It won’t be a magic solution to all the problems of our dairy farmers who are not only facing increased costs but are being squeezed by the processors and the retailers. The Labor Party doesn’t believe doing nothing is good enough. Far from it. As I travel around the country talking to dairy farmers I’m gathering their ideas and information about the way their individual businesses work so that if we are lucky to be elected I can hit the ground running on day one and start developing some solutions to their very serious problems.
JOURNALIST: Talking about developing solutions, do have any firm policies about what Labor would do to help dairy farmers at this stage?
FITZGIBBON: We will have some more to say about that on future dates but we did talk today specifically about how we guarantee dairy farmers get a reasonable return for that product. We can talk about levies at the retailing end but it is very difficult to make sure that gets back to the dairy farmer. We need solutions, policies that ensure that they get a reasonable return on their investment and on their hard work and I believe that every Australian would agree with that proposition.
JOURNALIST: Last night Bill Shorten spoke about, you know, the Labor Party being the Party to attack climate change, what would Labor’s stance be on reducing livestock numbers to help with gas emissions?
FITZGIBBON: The Labor Party has made it very clear, every time we have produced a policy in an attempt to address a very, very serious climate change issue, we will exempt the agricultural sector. So this is just another scare campaign being run by Scott Morrison. The only thing he knows are scare campaigns. But there is another side to that response, the land sector, our farmers, are the people most affected by a changing and more challenging climate. We want to work with them, in every way that we can to help them adapt to a more challenging climate. And that indeed in itself is all part of lifting their profitability and ensure they have a viable future.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor preference the Greens in the Election?
FITZGIBBON: I will leave preference decisions for the Party office and those who make those decisions. But we are here concentrating on one thing, and that is lifting the primary vote of Fiona Phillips, she is doing a great job here, we have got some great policies and we are really confident about our prospects here.
JOURNALIST: And Fiona, fourth Labor heavy-weight here in as many weeks, you must feel supported by the Party at this stage?
PHILLIPS: I have been endorsed for 22 months now, and look we have really been putting the work in, out listening to people in the community and that is why we are here today. We are talking with dairy farmers and we want to help people. That means bringing people like Joel here, Bill Shorten yesterday, and we will continue to do that.
JOURNALIST: How hard are farmers being hit here in the Shoalhaven?
PHILLIPS: In a huge way, absolutely. I don’t think I have seen anything more sad in this electorate. I think consumers hear about it but dairy farmers have been going through immense troubles and that is why it was import that I talk to Joel and we begin to do something about it.
JOURNALIST: Coming from a farming background, what do you think needs to be done from Parliament?
PHILLIPS: I agree with Joel, we need to work out the best way forward to get better returns at the farm-gate for dairy farmers.