Federal senators from Queensland led the charge at the hearing into the performance of Australia's dairy industry and its profitability since deregulation that was held in Canberra last Friday.
The inquiry was instigated in October last year after questions raised by Senator Pauline Hansen around the use of government and levy funds by Dairy Australia. Most importantly, those senators who attended the inquiry were genuinely interested in hearing and understanding more about the concerns, priorities and needs of our dairy farmers.
While physical attendance at the hearing was not compulsory due to COVID-19, we felt it was imperative to use the opportunity to meet with those politicians who have expressed an interest in the future of the Australian dairy industry. We were joined by dairy farmers and representatives from NSW Farmers.
QDO's submission to the inquiry did not mince words or dance around the topics that were under review. The three chief topics in our submission were:
- The current organisational structure and the need for transformational change.
- The urgent need for a sustainable and fair milk pricing mechanism.
- A review of the efficacy of the Dairy Code of Conduct.
QDO has been very vocal about the faults of the current industry structure. We believe strongly that a single organisation can be responsible for RDE and advocacy so long as it is led by democratically elected representatives who are accountable to the farmers. Setting up a single body for Queensland and NSW is vital for the industry to move forward. Certainly, the reactions from Senator Hanson and Senator Sterle (chair) would indicate that there is support for this system.
Similarly, there seemed to be strong interest in a wholesale review and amendment to agricultural competition policy. There are several examples within the dairy industry which would suggest that the ACCC cannot protect the interests of farmers when pitted against the bigger players in their supply chain. I would hazard that the time is ripe for the establishment of an Agricultural Commission to review and regulate competition policy issues across all agricultural industries. We also spoke about QDO's Fairy Go Dairy® logo scheme which will help shoppers make informed purchases.
QDO made clear our concerns re non-compliance with the Dairy Code by some processors. We have also put in a complaint to the ACCC and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and have asked them to investigate and take action. The senators were shocked by the apparent blatant disregard of the code by some processors.
On behalf of our Queensland farmers, I would like to thank Senators Hanson, Sterle, Canavan and McDonald for their interest and support of the Australian dairy industry.
The story Senate inquiry into dairy industry listens to needs of farmers first appeared on North Queensland Register.