Senate debates

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Ministerial Statements

Dairy Industry

4:12 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

The issues facing the dairy industry in Australia are complex, multifaceted and are not going to be solved by knee-jerk single responses. There are many issues manifesting at the moment. The Greens are concerned that dairy farmers get a fair price for their milk. The question is: how do we ensure that occurs? We have supported the bills Senator Hanson has brought into this place for a floor price. That is one measure but, in fact, it is not the best measure. The Australian Greens still think the amendments that we moved to Senator Hanson's bill are the best way forward that we can see at the moment. Rather than going for a full floor price, which has got the problem of having the same floor price in Queensland as in Victoria, go for an ACCC price notification scheme, where you could have prices being paid and then, if the price that the processors are proposing to pay to the dairy farmers are lowered, then the ACCC have got to sign off on that.

This sort of price notification scheme works for other industries. It works for Australia Post, it works for Airservices Australia and it works for Sydney airport. The Greens believe it's a middle road, having some level of regulation that clearly is needed. Clearly the system that we've got at the moment is not working. When you hear the stories about farmers not even being paid the cost of production by the processors, clearly this is not sustainable for them and it leads to overexploitation of the land as well. It's not something that we can continue with.

We think that further consideration of a price notification scheme by the ACCC is a very sensible middle way forward—certainly in the inquiry which we're about to go into the first hearing for in about 45 minutes time. I was very pleased to hear the minister give a commitment that the code of conduct—the long, long awaited code of conduct that really has taken far too long to be brought into being—will come into place on 1 May. As I said, that's been a very long wait and it's not before time. I think having that mandatory code of conduct in place, which has been a big push by many people, will be a significant step forward.

The third area that we really need to come to terms with is that a lot of the problems the dairy industry is facing are because of our changing climate. It is harder to have a productive dairy industry in areas where the temperatures are rising and where drought is occurring because of the climate crisis. The huge decrease in rainfall, the massive dryness and the extreme heat are reflective of the climate crisis. Two years ago, in 2017, we had 40 dairy cows die in the Shoalhaven area due to heat stress, because of the extreme weather conditions that occurred then. This is going to continue to occur across the country.

The basic reason that it costs more to produce milk in Queensland is, frankly, because it's hotter there and dairy cows don't like hot weather. So as the weather gets hotter, it's more difficult for the dairy industry to be profitable. We're looking down the barrel of increasing heat, increasing drought and increasing extreme temperatures, so it's inevitable that the dairy industry is going to continue with the struggles only getting worse.

If we are concerned about having a viable, profitable and sustainable future for our dairy industry in Australia we have to tackle our climate crisis. While we continue to say that it's absolutely fine to keep on mining, burning and exporting coal, gas and oil, and to have increasing carbon pollution, we are selling our dairy farmers out—just like we are selling out the rest of the Australian community and the rest of the world. I will know that this government and this parliament are serious about making sure that we have a sustainable dairy industry when they are serious about acting on our climate crisis. And that means we need to quit coal, we need to quit oil and we need to quit gas. We need to replace these with renewable energy sources. That's what's going to be good for the dairy industry. That's what's going to be good for the dairy industry in Queensland and that's what's going to be good for all of Australia and, in fact, all of the world.

This is the existential threat that is currently being faced, and until we come to terms with that threat we're just playing games. We know that there is not going to be a long-term sustainable future for so many of our industries unless we tackle our climate crisis.


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