House debates

Thursday, 21 February 2019


Dairy Industry

10:07 am

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Katter's Australian Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent the member for Kennedy from moving the following motion immediately:

That the House:

(1)notes that:

(a)it was the National Party which deregulated the dairy industry taking the farmers income from 59c a litre down to 41c a litre;

(b)at the announcement of deregulation there were over 230 dairy farmers on the Atherton Tablelands, now there are 51;

(c)neither the ALP or LNP will introduce arbitration for farmers;

(d)for supply and demand in the free market to work there must be an unlimited number of sellers and buyers; and

(e)dairy farmers in North Queensland have only one processor to sell to and in the whole of Australia effectively only two buyers of milk—the supermarket duopoly; and

(2)therefore, condemns both sides of politics in creating misery and heartache where dairy farmers are the victims of the free market 'fundamentalists' in this House.

This may sound like I'm taking up the time of the House unduly, and I take the honourable Leader of the House's comments, so I'm going to be uncharacteristically brief. But it is very, very simple. The president of our party is one of the biggest dairy farmers in Queensland. It is very simple. The reason we have to go in the direction that we are going in is that, on the day before deregulation, we were on 59c. That's not very complicated. The day after deregulation, we were on 41c. I carry the letter that was sent to all the farmers in North Queensland and I would be very surprised if it didn't go to all the farmers in Queensland and all the farmers in New South Wales. It did not go to Victoria, because Victoria had already been deregulated into the Melbourne market and all they had was the export market. I note the honourable member, one of my esteemed colleagues behind me here. Victoria wanted deregulation at that stage because they they'd already been deregulated and they felt that, if they could get across the border, they could get the 59c that the New South Welshmen were enjoying instead of the 40c they were getting in a deregulated market. That was the only reason Victoria went for it. They'd already been deregulated.

So, anyway, the deregulation proceeded and we lost a third of our income. In our area we had over 230 farms. We now have 51 farms. 'You can't blame the penguins in Antarctica.' That's a quote from the Nuremberg trials. You can't blame penguins in Antarctica; you've got to blame people on this side of the house and on that side of the House. They made the decision. So I'm not going to condemn for the purposes of politics the ALP for proposing to reinstitute arbitration. If every worker in Australia enjoys the protection of an awards system, well, thanks to the Country Party, every farmer in this nation enjoyed an awards system.

The great architects of our Country Party, Jack McEwan and Doug Anthony—Doug Anthony introduced the wool scheme. A person here—I don't mean to denigrate the man, but I was around at the time and he wasn't, I suppose. But we saw the price of wool go up 300 per cent when he introduced that scheme. When the scheme was removed, over the next three years it dropped to one-third of what it was. Oh, what a coincidence! When we introduce arbitration the Country Party way into the system, the price goes up. When we take it away, the price goes down, and I would strongly recommend to the minister to read that section of my book. He might hate me and he might even hate the book, but read the section where it gives the actual figures in the egg industry, in the milk industry and in the sugar industry.

You don't have to be Albert Einstein. I want to sue the University of Queensland for my economics course, because they told me you need an infinite number of buyers and sellers for the free market to work. Well, with Coles and Woolworths holding 93 per cent—and I'm not blaming Coles and Woolworths; they're out there to make money, that's their objective. You can't blame a bird-dog for chasing birds! But this place is here to set the rules. In this country, if you remove arbitration workers will be working for nothing. But it's infinitely worse for farmers, because there are only two people to sell food to in this country and they get 90 per cent of the market. When I went to university, it was called an 'oligopoly' and there was no free market operating.

I don't want to go on any longer. I framed that resolution before the ALP took their fall off the horse from Damascus, because it was the ALP which deregulated the wool industry. They can take full blame for the wool industry—and part of the blame for the others too, because it was ALP state governments that were in there. All I can do is to thank them; they've taken their fall from the horse to Damascus. I thank them and I move that accordingly. I support any party or group of people in this place who will give us back our right to arbitration and our right to protect ourselves against a situation where there is no free market, where there are two people to sell food to in Australia and two people to buy food from.

I don't wish to take up any more time in the House, because I think the government is entitled to help the people up north, who I represent.


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