House debates

Thursday, 21 February 2019


Dairy Industry

9:31 am

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | Hansard source

Now, I'm almost deafened by the interjections from the member for Murray. I say to the member for Murray: mate, we're coming after you. We are coming after you because your dairy farmers are asking the very obvious question: why is not our member in Canberra sticking up for us? Why is it that, when we're struggling through drought and other challenges, the member for Murray is not standing up for us?

But we won't stop with the member for Murray. All those members on the government side who lined up to vote against their dairy farmers yesterday will be getting a visit as well. My first visit will be to the member for Page, the guy who sits on the cross bench but also attends the National Party room and also attends the National Party parliamentary meetings. This is another bizarre outcome, something else I haven't seen in 23 years in this place. He goes to the crossbenchers, and he goes to the National Party room. Under that discipline, he sits on the wrong side and votes against his dairy farmers. Well, our candidate, Patrick Deegan, just can't wait for the local debates. He can't wait to make dairy the key issue.

Mr McCormack interjecting

There goes the Deputy Prime Minister. He has dairy farmers in his electorate too. He has dairy processing in his electorate. His electorate employs some of the 20,000 Australians who work in dairy processing. What did he do yesterday? He sat on the wrong side of the House and voted against supporting dairy farmers. He has condoned the comments of the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. He has supported the boycott of Australian dairy farmers. It's not just the member for Murray and it's not just the member for Page who will regret their actions. I will just go through a few more.

There is the member for Flynn. We have our eye on Flynn. I would have thought the member for Flynn might have joined us yesterday to support dairy farmers. No, he didn't. What about the member for Gilmore? She thinks she's all right. She thinks she's okay because she's out of this place. She knows her future in this place; there isn't one. She is going voluntarily, but that should have been exactly why she voted with us yesterday. Why was she concerned about party discipline? Why was she concerned that the Prime Minister, the bloke who sits here in question time, told her to vote against her dairy farmers? It doesn't make any sense. It was a perfect opportunity for her to stand up. But don't worry, she is being replaced by Warren Mundine, the star candidate.

Let me share with House what Warren Mundine had to say after Labor announced that we will support our dairy farmers. He talked to the South Coast Registerit was soon after I visited Milton, by the way, to talk with dairy farmers, who love Labor's policy—and he said:

I've been working with the Prime Minister's office on how we can get a proper base milk price for dairy farmers of the South Coast.

Here we go. There's a bit of a hint in this. They say one thing in Canberra and another in the electorate. Now, Warren Mundine is not here yet and won't ever be here, certainly not in this election. He might have another crack in the Senate with another party, who knows? This is what they do. They come down here, sneakily, thousands of kilometres from their electorates, and they just maintain the party line. But when they go back to their electorate, they're lions and they're supporting their dairy farmers!

By the way, I forgot this when I was talking about the member for Page: he wants to have a royal commission. He doesn't support the floor price. He wants to have a royal commission. Despite the fact that he allegedly sits as an Independent and still attends National Party's party rooms, this is the bloke who voted against a banking royal commission 26 times. But his solution for the dairy farmers, who are doing it tough today and tomorrow and have been doing it tough for years, is to have a royal commission. That, of course, is going to take a year or more at the very least. Certainly, if this government was re-elected—hopefully that's unlikely—then that royal commission would make recommendations that would never be embraced by this government, because they don't seriously support our dairy farmers.

Let me just mention a few more members. There is the member for Corangamite. Wouldn't you think that the member for Corangamite would be supporting her dairy farmers? She is a woman of great independence. She introduced the bill to phase out the live sheep trade—remember that? She is a powerful woman, really on the job and very impressive for her constituents. But guess what? She took a little pay rise as an assistant minister, a high office. Suddenly, she doesn't care about her private member's bill any more.

I hope the member for New England doesn't leave the chamber, because he is next on my list. He is the drought envoy, but he's not backing his dairy farmers. Guess what? The member for New England said an extraordinary thing yesterday. He said that I don't spend much time in my electorate. What a load of rubbish. We know who doesn't spend much time in his electorate; it's the member for New England. He now represents the people who I used to represent, and I know what they think about a floor price. These people have been asking me to reintroduce a form of regulation for the dairy industry for two decades. I know them. But what did the drought envoy do yesterday? He sat there and he voted against his local dairy farmers. That's what he did yesterday. What did he say?

Mr Joyce interjecting

What he's saying now is: 'There are very few of them. They don't matter.' That's what he just said. He just said, 'There are so few of them, they don't matter.' That's what the member for New England says. This is the guy the Prime Minister hand-picked to be the drought envoy. It's interesting; the media checked his travel records lately and he hasn't been doing much 'drought envoying' around the country. He hasn't been to Menindee, for example. He's doing all of his drought envoying in his own electorate because he knows he's in trouble and he knows we're coming after him. I suggest that after he voted against his own people yesterday he'll be spending some more time in his electorate.

I know I'm going to be very ably followed in this debate. My colleague will maybe mention a few more people on the other side, because the list is so long I can't possibly get through them. The key point here is: the agriculture minister has done the most extraordinary thing; he's asked Australians not to buy our local dairy farmer products. On that basis he should deeply reflect, and all those Nats over the other side who are voting against their dairy farmers should rethink or maybe think about the alternative—not being here after the next election.


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