All changes made to the description and title of this division.

View division | Edit description

Change Division
senate vote 2019-11-11#1

Edited by mackay

on 2019-11-15 15:54:19


  • Bills — Protecting Australian Dairy Bill 2019; Second Reading
  • Protecting Australian Dairy Bill 2019 - Second Reading - Agree with the bill's main idea


  • <p class="speaker">Pauline Hanson</p>
  • <p>The Protecting Australian Dairy Bill 2019 has one overarching purpose, and that is to save Australia's dairy industry. To all the dairy farmers watching this debate today: my heart goes out to you. I know the hardship, the loss and the trauma that you are going through&#8212;the loss of your properties and your cattle&#8212;and I know that you will be watching this debate with interest.</p>
  • <p>The bill introduces three measures. The first is to task the ACCC with establishing a minimum price for the milk fat and protein content of milk produced on the farm in specified areas of milk regions. I circulated an amendment this morning to that effect. The second is to legislate a mandatory code of conduct to be established for the food and grocery industry. This will include the dairy industry and the first purchaser of milk from the producer. The third measure is to make a referral to the Productivity Commission to make recommendations on a divestiture power for the ACCC.</p>
  • The majority voted in favour of a [motion]( to agree with the main idea of the bill, which means our senators can now discuss it in more detail. In parliamentary jargon, they voted to read the bill for a [second time](
  • ### What was the main idea of the bill?
  • According to the [bill's homepage](;query=Id:legislation/billhome/s1237), the bill was introduced to:
  • * *require the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to determine a base minimum price for milk for each dairy season;*
  • * *require the minister to refer to the Productivity Commission for inquiry the effectiveness of determining a base price for milk and the potential effectiveness of a divestiture regime for the dairy industry; and*
  • * *establish a mandatory industry code for the food and grocery industry, including the dairy industry.*
  • <p>It's disappointing and telling if it is the case that the government will not support this bill. In meetings, the government has been unable to explain how dairy farmers will be disadvantaged by setting a minimum base price for milk. It knows milk has been sold below the cost of water on supermarket shelves and that milk has been sold below the cost of production, and yet the government sits like a spectator watching supermarkets&#8212;Coles and Woolworths&#8212;together with a handful of milk processors use their market power to control the supply chain and destroy dairy farmers and rural Australia.</p>
  • <p>As the dairy industry, like other farming sectors, becomes concentrated in the hands of large corporates, often foreign owned, we are seeing family owned farms driven out of business. When they go, the rural communities that support and depend on them are weakened and may die. If this bill is not passed, then we move one step closer to reliance on imported long-life milk.</p>
  • <p>This bill is not about taxpayers' subsidies, because there will be no subsidies from the government. The bill does not affect dairy exports or free trade agreements. All the bill asks of the government is to put in place some rules that will work against business models based on anticompetitive practices. It means we will pay a little bit more for milk, but that payment means we can continue in the long term to buy fresh milk. I know the Australian people are quite happy to pay a bit extra for Australian milk and support our dairy farmers.</p>
  • <p>Coles began the milk war in January 2011, and was quickly followed by Woolworths and others. Coles is on record as saying that dollar milk has established them as the best value supermarket in Australia, and it seems they are happy to profit by sending their suppliers out of business.</p>
  • <p>My bill, the Protecting Australian Dairy Bill 2019, is not just about helping dairy farmers; it is about maintaining and growing the rural communities that support and depend on farms. It is about food security, because we have a need to be self-sufficient in dairy products, including fresh milk.</p>
  • <p>It's a poor reflection on the government today that it is One Nation that has had to take the lead on this matter. The Nationals are no longer the party of the bush. The Nationals can make amends and start to rebuild their reputation in the bush by crossing the floor to support this bill. If they don't cross the floor, if they don't support this bill, then it is a clear indication to the Australian people of where they stand in supporting the farmers. I will not stand by and be accused of taking their policies when they've sat on this for so long and did not bring in the mandatory code of conduct before the last parliament when I pushed for it to happen.</p>
  • <p>I want to tell you a true story, which involves a hardworking dairy farm near Gympie. This is only one story, but it's replicated across the country. In the last financial year, these dairy farmers had a turnover of $600,000, and all that money was spent in the local community. The husband and wife are exhausted because they are actually doing the work of four people because they cannot afford to employ other workers. These farmers are under pressure to sign a new contract with French-owned company Lactalis Australia, formerly Parmalat. If they sign the contract, then every litre of the one million litres they can produce will be sold below the cost of production. They rightly ask why the government is not helping people who help themselves.</p>
  • <p>They are not the only dairy farm at risk. These family owned dairy businesses are not asking for subsidies from the taxpayer, unlike wind and solar electricity projects. They simply ask the government to ensure they are not driven out of business by large businesses whose business model is based on anticompetitive practices. Let us be clear: supermarkets, foreign owned multinational milk processors and megadairies are doing very nicely financially out of the misery of dairy farmers.</p>
  • <p>The dairy farmers near Gympie are listening to this debate today, and they are holding off the decision to send their productive herd to the meat packers on the outcome of today's debate and vote. They want to know why the supermarket rebate from the big supermarkets only applies to sales of one-litre bottles of home brand milk. This means they receive a rebate of 3.8 cents a litre and not the 10 cents. The $700 a fortnight they received last financial year from the Farm Household Allowance needs to be repaid because, when they did their tax return, they discovered the principal component of their mortgage counts as income and, on that basis, they owe all the money back to the government. They will not be entitled to the farm household allowance this year, because the sale of one-third of their herd will count as income, even though it is being used to feed the remaining herd.</p>
  • <p>The Protecting Australian Dairy Bill 2019 is vital to protect Australian dairy farmers, to bring sense back into the pricing and sales mechanisms in place for this stable food, milk, and to safeguard Australians generally by providing good quality Australian milk. I have also been told that the Centre Alliance doesn't intend to actually vote for this, based on approximately 130 dairy farmers in their state and that it's about export. It's not about the export market. This is about protecting our own industry here in Australia. We have to stand up for all the dairy farmers. We've gone from 22,000 to under 6,000 dairy farmers at the moment. So if you want to buy imported milk, you'll be looking at New Zealand, or, who knows, possibly even China, who were exporting the milk from our country back to their country. And do you know what? The Chinese don't even want their powdered milk, so what sort of future are we going to have in our country?</p>
  • <p>I call on everyone in this parliament: represent the people of this nation&#8212;the dairy farmers, who are on their knees and going under. All they want is a fair price for their milk, and the public will pay for it.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Susan McDonald</p>
  • <p>It is an honour and a privilege to serve in the Australian parliament. It is particularly an honour and a privilege to serve and represent the agricultural industry and farmers of Australia, but that is not a privilege that I take lightly. Too often I have had complaints of the amount of regulation and legislation that is choking this country, and one of the reasons that I stand here is to not be a part of that overregulation.</p>
  • <p>There is no more important industry in Australia than agriculture in growing the food and fibre that feeds the nation and feeds a good part of the world. Dairy is indeed an important part of that industry. They are doing it as tough as anybody at this moment&#8212;as tough as pork producers, as tough as feed lotters and as tough as anybody who is having to pay a dollar a kilo for feed, who are struggling to get water in the face of a deep drought. But these are not things that can or should be solved by this legislation.</p>
  • <p>I want to recognise Senator Hanson's well-placed passion and support for this industry and for these farmers who are, as we've already talked about, doing it tough. But, as I've already said, this legislation will not protect farmers. It will not protect farmers from unconscionable buying habits from supermarkets. It will not protect farmers from the actions of industry practice, of trading milk swaps and of not paying a fair price.</p>
  • <p>I cannot believe that the Labor Party is going to support this legislation. How tragic it is that there is only a handful of them here in the parliament to hear this debate and to make up their own minds about what is appropriate and what is right for our very important dairy industry.</p>
  • <p>Despite being Australia's third-largest agricultural industry, dairy faces significant challenges. This government knows that, if left unchecked, these challenges will threaten the long-term viability of dairy production in this country. The fact is that raw milk pricing is determined by processors and incorporated into supply contracts entered into with farmers. These contracts aren't uniform; they depend on milk quality, volume supply, timing of supply and the premiums attached to the length of a supply contract. The reality is that it is challenging to compare milk supply agreements and contracts. That is why we're acting on the ACCC's recommendation to introduce the dairy code of conduct. Right now, industry has the opportunity to have a say. Consultation closes on 22 November. We're seeking feedback on the best form of contractual terms and pricing, too.</p>
  • <p>The other issue that I am most concerned about is that, less than one month ago, Senator Hanson launched a Senate inquiry which sought to assess the performance of the dairy industry since deregulation. This inquiry was to give farmers an opportunity to provide their evidence. It was an opportunity for dairy organisations who, I believe, have not been deeply consulted on this and an opportunity to come and publicly explain the issues that they have, and yet we are rushing ahead with legislation which is not complete. We have had amendments to this legislation this morning. I cannot support legislation that is drafted so hastily, with unintended consequences that could potentially affect dairy farmers more adversely than the problem we are seeking to solve. The inquiry even goes so far as to specifically address alternative approaches to supporting a viable dairy industry and the merits of tasking the ACCC to investigate how it can regulate the price of milk per litre paid by processors to farmers.</p>
  • <p>As a Queenslander I strongly support dairy in my state of Queensland. Whether it be on the tablelands or in the south-east, this is an industry that is under enormous pressure. But this bill is premature. It lacks support from industry. It is not based on fact. I particularly disagree with the comments that the National Party is not standing and fighting for farmers right across this nation. As a party, we live in regional areas. We come from these regional areas and we speak, daily, to farmers and processors and producers, who are all part of the agricultural supply chain. Can we do better for the industry? Of course we can. Senator Hanson named one processor in particular who I agree is not doing the right thing for its farmers, and it should be called out for it. But it has to be said that Norco as a co-op and a genuine representative of their farmers is doing a very good job at increasing prices, taking supermarkets to task and increasing the amount that they are being paid for their farmers.</p>
  • <p>I cannot support this legislation. It is not well thought through. I agree completely that there are dairy farmers who are on their knees, who are considering the ultimate solution. That is appalling and tragic, and I will fight every day for them. But this will not solve their problems and, what's worst of all, it gives them hope when it will not provide it.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>