Senate debates

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Ministerial Statements

Dairy Industry

4:02 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | Hansard source

I take note of the explanation by the Minister for Agriculture. It's very interesting the responses here about being a regulated dairy industry that is nowhere else in the world. Well, I'm sorry, but we are the only country in the world that is unregulated in the dairy industry. Even New Zealand has a regulated dairy industry and produces about 22 billion litres of milk a year. America is regulated. Europe is regulated. We are the only country that isn't, yet in Australia the number of registered Australian dairy farms has fallen from 5,699 in July 2018 to 5,200 in the present day. Milk production has fallen from 12 billion litres in 2000 to eight billion litres in 2019.

I also want to talk about the processors. Dairy foods play an important part in Australia's food security and human health. None of the recommendations contained in the final report of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission dairy inquiry dated April 2018 have been implemented. Australia is forecast to import more dairy products than it exports by 2023. Four foreign owned milk processors control an increasing proportion of milk production in Australia, setting the price at the farm gate during the period of 2013 to 2017. These processors have revenues in Australia of over $160 billion but pay less than $160 million in income tax, or a rate of less than one per cent. The main dairy export countries, including New Zealand, which is the largest dairy exporter in the world, have a regulated farmgate milk price. Regulation of farmgate milk prices is correlated with growth in milk production and increasing exports, whereas Australia's export of dairy products has been in decline.

The minister says we have a high farmgate price at the moment. Well, I have dairy farmers in the Scenic Rim ringing me up and saying, 'I'm being forced to sign a contract with a processor, and for the next five years I'm only going to get 50c a litre for my milk.' Yes, the costs are going up at the moment because of the drought. Electricity prices have gone up; water has gone up in price. Why? Why are we facing high electricity prices? It's government policies and legislation that have put us in this predicament at the moment, so it's because of government policies that we're paying high water prices.

I visited a dairy farm down on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. They're paying $1 million a year for fodder and water just to keep production going. They can't keep going the way they are at the moment. There's a dairy farmer outside Toowoomba who had 1,100 cattle; he's now down to 600 cattle, and he looks like he could be losing his property because he can't get a fair price. He said: 'I'm getting 57c a litre for my milk, with a 5c loyalty on top of it, so 61c a litre. In Victoria, if they get the milk exported up from Victoria to Queensland, the processor pays Victorian milk producers an immediate 87c a litre for the milk.' Why can't they pay that directly to the farmer?

You talk about a farmgate price. This is what the minister hasn't explained: what damage is it going to do to the dairy farming industry in Australia if we give them a fair farmgate price that is viable, that will cover their costs. This can be regulated; it can be set by the ACCC. That is what has happened in other countries around the world. Senator McDonald has made comments saying: 'Well, look; we should get Coles and Woolies to actually set the price. They can pay the processor, and the processor can then pay the farmer.' What other industry do we have where the retailer sends the moneys back? What a great idea! Then the headlines came out today about Coles having to pay $5.25 million because they allegedly did not pass on 10c milk price hikes to the farmers. That idea works really well, doesn't it? As if they are going to pass it on! As if they want the book work! And where's the money going? That's not going to work at all.

Here's another thing. Senator Patrick voted against this. He said: 'I got a phone call from my South Australian dairy industry and they told me this is not going to work. I can't vote for this.' 'Do you understand it?' 'No, I really don't understand it, but that's what they told me. It's not going to suit South Australia.' Well South Australia's not doing too badly. I don't think they get their farmers to fully supply all of their milk, so they have to import from Victoria. But they're more interested in the export market, and they thought, 'This might destroy our export market.' It's got nothing do to with the export market whatsoever. Anyway, my staffer rang them up and spoke to a Nick Brokenshire, who was the vice-president. His response was, 'Just do what the Nationals tell you.' That was the response. So here you have it. Is it political? It's all political. That's what it's all about. It's very political.

The government says, 'But we're putting this $10 million in to assist in electricity prices, and we're doing all this to help.' The farmers out there just want a fair price for their milk. You admitted that people pay more for water on the shelf. They're quite prepared to pay for the water. And then you say, 'Oh, well, we are addressing the mandatory code of conduct.' I'm sorry, Minister; One Nation had to force your hand because you weren't going to bring it in until July next year. You admitted you had targeted July next year to bring in the dairy code of conduct. You had one already. You had the ACCC's sitting on the table, but you changed it completely. You changed it completely. You changed it from the original one, which was under consultation. It is a document that favours the processors. So if the processors actually have lost—


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