Queensland dairy weighs in on new government

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 24th August 2010

milking cowQueensland dairy farmers, gathering on the Sunshine Coast this week at the annual QDO/DIAA industry conference, have called on any new Federal Government to “immediately begin to work with the dairy industry to refine and implement the recommendations of a recent Senate Inquiry into milk prices,” said the Queensland Farmers Federation today.

The Queensland farming industry, particularly the dairy industry, is of great importance to independent MP Bob Katter – one of the three independent MPs likely to hold the deciding vote on who forms government. Katter, who holds the seat of Kennedy in north-west Queensland, told Kerry O’Brien on Monday’s 7:30 Report that they had “fought like tigers” to stave off dairy deregulation, and that the result of the move was that “Within two years of dairy deregulation, there was a farmer committing suicide every four days in Australia.”

“Labor, the Coalition, and the Greens all spoke about food security during the election campaign and a number of Senators gave commitments to pursue the Senate Inquiry recommendations, including reviewing and amending the Trade Practices Act,” said Brian Tessmann, director of the Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation.

“The events of the weekend have been nothing short of extraordinary, but once either party gets down to the business of government, which at the moment looks like requiring an agreement with independent Members, it needs to make the recommendations of this Senate inquiry a top priority,” he said.

“A government that is serious about a national food plan should be ensuring that farmers are receiving sustainable prices for their work, investment and risks taken,” said Tessman. “At the moment, many dairy farmers are doing the numbers on their costs and the prices they get for their milk – and we have a situation where some are questioning whether it’s worth slogging it out. Yet, at the same time, the Queensland population is continuing to grow rapidly and will need greater volumes of fresh milk into the future.”

Only Labor announced a national food plan as part of its election campaign, with the Coalition promising to commit funds mostly to agricultural research.

A recent Senate Inquiry into competition and pricing in the dairy industry made various recommendations that, if implemented, the QDO believes would help rebalance of market power and improve transparency and fairness in the way farmers receive prices for their milk.

“Working with dairy industry to refine and implement the recommendations from the Senate Inquiry would go a long way to helping to rebalance market power and ensuring that farmers are around in the future to supply that milk we all need,” said Tessman.