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senate vote 2019-12-05#17

Edited by mackay

on 2019-12-13 14:41:46


  • Ministerial Statements — Dairy Industry
  • Australian Crime Commission Amendment (Special Operations and Special Investigations) Bill 2019 - Third Reading - Statutory review


  • <p class="speaker">Bridget McKenzie</p>
  • <p>It's my absolute pleasure to come into the chamber to talk about the plan the Liberal-National government have to support Australian dairy farmers. I'm an optimist when it comes to agriculture in this country and this is how I see the dairy industry. It is an industry that is glass half full. Yes, the industry is facing some challenges at the moment. Drought and high input costs of water, fodder and electricity are having a real effect on our dairy farmers. Despite historically high farmgate prices at the moment, farmers are not seeing that turn into profit, partly because of the cost of production. The warm and dry winter has played havoc on milk production across Australia, especially in the northern regions. Milk production on farms across Queensland and New South Wales has been contracting due to prolonged drought conditions, and the failure of some grain crops in these areas is temporarily decreasing fodder availability, with forecasts showing the feed supply will remain tight.</p>
  • <p>Tasmania and southern Victoria bucked the trend, though in Victoria on-farm costs grew by 20 per cent last financial year as a result of higher priced irrigation and feed. Things have been tough, particularly in northern Victoria and southern New South Wales, with limited water availability and high input costs. For example, the median price for temporary water in northern Victoria has been well in excess of that required to turn a profit as a dairy farmer. In South Australia, crop yield expectations have been downgraded due to frost this year, and the cost of feed is persistently high. Right now milk production in Western Australia is ramping up after a late start to the season, but, whilst the cost of stock feed wheat has reduced by 23 per cent, the price of hay has substantially increased over the last year.</p>
  • The majority voted against [amendment (1)](;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Famend%2Fr6457_amend_9133ddad-d339-4baf-aeed-60a984f2fe71%22;rec=0), which was introduced by the Centre Alliance, which means it failed. The amendment would have required an independent review of this bill's amendments after a period of 12 months.
  • ### Amendment text
  • > *(1) Page 2 (after line 11), after clause 3, insert:*
  • >
  • >> **4 Review of this Act**
  • >>
  • >> *(1) The Minister must cause an independent review to be conducted of the operation of the amendments made by this Act.*
  • >>
  • >> *(2) The review must be commenced as soon as practicable after the end of 12 months after this Act commences.*
  • >>
  • >> *(3) The persons who conduct the review must give the Minister a written report of the review within 6 months of the commencement of the review.*
  • >>
  • >> *(4) The Minister must cause a copy of the report to be tabled in each House of Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the report is given to the Minister.*
  • ### What does the bill do?
  • According to the [bills digest](, the bill was introduced in order to:
  • > * *respond to concern about the validity of certain [ACIC]( determinations and other documents raised in the case of [CXXXVIII v Commonwealth]( by confirming the validity of current and former Australian Crime Commission (ACC) special operations and special investigations, the lawfulness of which has been questioned and*
  • > * *amend the process by which the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) Board authorises future special operations and special investigations, including by amending the threshold of which it must be satisfied.*
  • Although the bill does not expand or alter the powers available to ACIC, parties [like the Centre Alliance]( were concerned by the retroactive nature of the bill. That is, it will confirm the validity of current and former special operations and special investigations at a time when the High Court is considering the validity of these laws in the context of an alleged unlawful investigation.
  • <p>Dairy production is expected to fall by a further three to five per cent over this financial year, as the ongoing challenges of drought and high input costs mean that farmers are making tough decisions to sell or cull their stock. The dairy-milking herd has reduced as farmers proactively manage the risk of poor animal welfare outcomes in drought. Farmers are also managing the risk of heat stress in their herds, which further lowers milk production in the drought. This season's farmgate milk price will provide many farmers with the chance to make up some ground financially. However, high costs of feed and water&#8212;not to mention the ongoing drought&#8212;will continue to hold back profitability. Whilst these challenges persist, milk production is likely to remain subdued.</p>
  • <p>Our government knows it is tough. We recognised our dairy farmers were doing it tough prior to the last election. We've not come to this issue yesterday, like others, who may claim to be fighting for the dairy industry. That is why our government has a real plan to support dairy farmers across Australia and to address both price and input costs. I and all those on the government benches want to see a vibrant, sustainable and prosperous Australian dairy industry that continues to produce safe, nutritious dairy products not only for Australians but also for the world.</p>
  • <p>To address the effects that input costs are having on the industry, our government has taken the following actions. For those experiencing drought conditions, we've announced over $8 billion in drought measures and improvements to the farm household allowance, to ensure that many eligible farmers, including dairy farmers, are able to receive assistance. That includes $98 million to make up to 100 gigalitres of water available to produce fodder, silage and pasture, which is due for open application this month. This will directly assist dairy farmers in the southern basin but will benefit all as more fodder becomes available on the market. Our government is providing $3.3 billion of funding through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, and our government has established a $100 million National Water Grid Authority to bring together the world's best science to identify opportunities and plan the next generation of water infrastructure.</p>
  • <p>Electricity prices&#8212;particularly for those dairy farmers in Queensland, where the operation is state owned&#8212;are wreaking havoc on profitability. We have a plan that includes $10 million to assist dairy farmers to upgrade or invest in energy-efficient equipment to reduce their energy costs. That's something that those particularly in North Queensland are telling us that they want to see. Our government has also put in place a price safety net, capping standing-offer prices. We've introduced a reference price when it comes to electricity, requiring advertisers to make offers more transparent, and we've progressed the big stick legislation to ensure that electricity retailers pass on those reductions.</p>
  • <p>We've improved the productivity of our dairy farmers, including a modernisation plan through the research and development corporations. And that's not all. We're progressing the review of the EPBC Act, and this is in addition to the Craik reforms. We've had $3 million of grants to support farmer groups to set up farm cooperatives and other collective business models so that they can address some of the structural issues within the dairy industry to gain more market power against the processors and the retailers.</p>
  • <p>To help farmers get the best price for their milk, our government has taken the following actions. At the election we announced a suite of measures: $8.1 million in additional funding to the ACCC's agriculture unit and a dairy specialist. That is already proving returns, as the ACCC result for Norco against Coles has seen today. The Nationals were key in delivering the effects test to limit the use of market power by big business and strengthen protections against anticompetitive behaviour. We've backed the development of cooperatives and mutuals. We're creating more opportunities to sell dairy products at premium prices by actively supporting our dairy farmers to get the most of our free trade agreements, by working to reduce or remove barriers to trade to establish new technical market access. This is in addition to fighting for Australian dairy through the negotiations of the geographical indicators that are part of the EU free trade agreement negotiations. The gains from trade are clear. Under the TPP-11, cheese tariffs with Japan, covering almost $100 million of trade, will be eliminated. That is great news for Australian dairy farmers. Under the FTA with China, tariffs on all dairy products will be abolished by 2026. Our government also recognises the increasing significance of non-tariff measures for Australian agricultural industries, including dairy, and the impact that they have on restricting market opportunities, imposing unreasonable additional costs on export.</p>
  • <p>But, most importantly, our government is working to deliver the mandatory dairy code of conduct for industry, due to be in operation by 1 January 2020, to help protect farmers against egregious conduct from processors, to improve transparency in the industry and to set enforceable minimum standards of conduct for business practices between farmers and processors. Today I am pleased to announce to the chamber that we have received broad support from industry right across the country, across all states&#8212;Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. The dairy industry is supporting our efforts to deliver a mandatory code. The code will cover seven of the eight recommendations made by the ACCC in its 2018 dairy inquiry. Recommendation 6 is covered by our election commitment of half a million dollars to Dairy Australia to provide financial and legal advice to farmers so that they can properly consider the implications of their contracts with processors. This means that by 1 January 2020 all of the ACCC recommendations will have been delivered&#8212;just over six months since being returned to government.</p>
  • <p>Finally, I want to make this point in relation to alternative proposals that are being suggested in this chamber, notably the push for a floor price. Those proposing floor prices don't support the government pursuing free trade agreements with new markets. They don't support dairy exports that help the industry to grow. We support and we've demonstrated that we want Australian dairy farmers to get paid a fair farmgate price, but we do not support a floor price. In the last 10 years there have been 10 reviews into the dairy industry. These reviews examined the key issues around pricing, cost, performance, contracts and supply chain, but not one of those 10 reviews in a decade of examination supported the introduction of a floor price. Any floor price ignores the basic principles of economics, supply and demand; and does nothing to fix the underlying issues, like the high input costs for fodder, water and electricity; and the difficulty farmers have in negotiating a fair price for the milk that they produce with the processors. A floor price would create damaging distortions across the dairy regions; incentivise the purchase of milk from southern states, where production costs are historically lower; significantly impact other states, like Queensland, New South Wales and WA; and mean that imported dairy products, such as cheese and milk powder, would become cheaper in comparison.</p>
  • <p>Raising the price of milk paid to dairy farmers would reduce our competitiveness as an exporter, and the floor price is also likely to reduce the profitability of dairy farmers by increasing competition for inputs such as feed and water. Importantly, history shows that price regulation doesn't work. If you want a great example, look at the wool industry when it comes to floor prices. I'm pleased that, in combination with my colleagues, we're taking up the fight for Australian dairy farmers to the supermarkets. I'm proud of our work as a government. We're going to deliver our ongoing plan to support our dairy farmers. I believe, my team believes and our government believes that the dairy farmers in this country have a very bright future, and we are doing everything we can to support that end.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Murray Watt</p>
  • <p>It's the last sitting day of the year, and here we are again debating the failure&#8212;</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Sue Lines</p>
  • <p>Senator Watt, are you taking note?</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Murray Watt</p>
  • <p>I move:</p>
  • <p class="italic">That the Senate take note of the minister's statement.</p>
  • <p>It's the last sitting day of the year, and here we are again debating the failure of this third-term government to provide support to Australia's dairy industry. The Minister for Agriculture continues to feign support for the industry, attempting to claim that this government has actually done anything meaningful to save Australia's dairy industry. This is the minister who is bypassed by her own backbench when it comes to acting to supporting Australia's dairy industry, to the point we're starting to talk about the 'Bridget bypass'. This is the minister who voted against ensuring our dairy farmers receive a fair price for their milk.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Sarah Henderson</p>
  • <p>Madam Deputy President, a point of order: could I ask Senator Watt to refer to the minister by her correct title.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Sue Lines</p>
  • <p>Thank you, Senator Henderson. I remind Senator Watt to please refer to people in this chamber by their correct title.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Murray Watt</p>
  • <p>Thank you, Madam Deputy President, for your guidance. This is the minister who shows no contrition for failing to quickly respond to this dairy crisis. This is the minister who is part of the government that, back in 2016, ignored the plight of our dairy farmers when Murray Goulburn clawed back the milk price. This is the minister who stood with her colleagues and voted against the dairy code of conduct. In fact, my father was a dairy farmer so I know a little bit about this topic, if not the Victorian dairy market.</p>
  • <p>National Party senators who claim they support our dairy farmers had yet another opportunity to show real support for Australian dairy farmers and to send their coalition partners a message they cannot take their support for granted. Instead, they voted against Senator Hanson's bill. Yet Senator Susan McDonald last week told Radio National: 'We're losing a dairy farmer a week from the industry Queensland. We're down to 311 and it has to stop today.' She also said this is a complete market failure. She said: 'I have long talked about the complete imbalance of power between Coles and Woolworths, and, you know, to an extent, Aldi. They hold so much market share. I think there are more steps to be taken to address supermarket power.' Isn't it funny&#8212;you'd almost think the government wasn't in power, that they hadn't been here for six years and actually could have done something about this. There's irony in a new senator who has just arrived here, after six years of this government, having to point out the failures of her very own government. At any point over the last six years National Party members could have stepped up and supported our dairy farmers, but they chose not to.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Gerard Rennick</p>
  • <p>We did!</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Bridget McKenzie</p>
  • <p>We have!</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>