The federal government's newly found enthusiasm for its Dairy Code of Conduct continues to gain pace, with Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie confirming the new rules would become law by January next year.
Former Agriculture Minister David Littleproud promised in March to dairy farmers battling low milk prices that a Coalition government would create a new mandatory code to give producers more power to negotiate with milk processors.
Farmers backed the new code and, after the Coalition's May 18 election win, urged new Ag Minister McKenzie to speed up implementation of the new rules.
The Coalition had promised in its election campaign to deliver a start date of July 2020 for the new rules.
Ms McKenzie's Queensland Nationals colleagues took up the industry cause for earlier introduction, warning farmers could be looked into tough long term contracts.
Nevertheless, the Minister stuck fast to the July 2020 deadline.
But all that changed a fortnight ago when One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson threatened to withhold her vote from non-essential legislation unless the government did something to support dairy farmers.
Ms McKenzie promptly brought forward implementation of the new code, announcing consultation would be sped up so the new rules would be in place by January 2020.
QLD Nationals representatives were fuming and Ms McKenzie was left facing speculation over the future of her tenure as Deputy Leader of the Nationals.
However, leadership rumblings have died down and today Ms McKenzie opened the third and final round of industry feedback in the supercharged consultation process.
"We are delivering the mandatory code as soon as possible in order to provide clearer safeguards for how farmers are treated as members of the supply chain," she said.
"I remind the dairy industry again that they are on notice to make sure that the contracts offered to farmers are appropriate and fair ahead of its formal introduction - the community expects no less."
To date, only broad principles for the mandatory code had been released. It would ban retrospective pricing; increase market competition by enabling farmers to switch between processors more easily; ban exclusive contracts that distort the market and prevent farmers selling excess milk non-contracted companies, and: bring milk supply contracts under unfair contract legislation
Now, a draft exposure bill of the new rules is available for stakeholders to provide feedback on. Consultation is open until November 22.
The mandatory code came from a recommendation in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's April 2018 report into the dairy sector.