Thursday, 17 October 2019
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee; Reference
I seek leave to amend business of the Senate notice of motion No. 5 standing in my name for today proposing a reference to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee concerning Australia's dairy industry.
I move the motion as amended:
That the following matter be referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and report by the third sitting day in March 2020:
The performance of Australia's dairy industry and the profitability of Australian dairy farmers since deregulation in 2000, with particular reference to:
(a) the ability of Dairy Australia to act independently and support the best interests of both farmers and processors;
(b) the accuracy of statistical data collected by Dairy Australia and the Australian Bureau of Statistics;
(c) the funding of Dairy Australia and the extent of its consultation and engagement on the expenditure of levies revenue;
(d) the merits of tasking the ACCC to investigate how it can regulate the price of milk per litre paid by processors to dairy farmers to ensure a viable dairy industry;
(e) alternative approaches to supporting a viable dairy sector;
(f) the introduction of a mandatory industry code of practice; and
(g) any related matters.
The government does not support reregulation via an ACCC investigation, as reregulation is not supported by the industry. As recommended by the ACCC, we're implementing a mandatory code of conduct to increase fairness and transparency between dairy farmers and processors. The code has been developed in consultation with industry and will help to address the imbalance in bargaining power between farmers and processors. Progress has been made to expedite the code. An exposure draft will be released shortly for industry feedback, and it's expected to be in place by 1 January 2020. The government is also reviewing the rural research and development corporations system, with consultation currently open until 4 November 2019.
Centre Alliance will be supporting Senator Hanson's reference. I point out that the reference doesn't suggest that an outcome ought to be regulation, just that it be explored. I point out to the chamber that there was an inquiry in relation to the dairy industry back in 2011, looking at $1 milk. There was an ACCC inquiry. There was a 2011 Senate inquiry looking at farmgate prices. I point out to the chamber that the government has not responded to that 2011 committee report. I have grave concerns that we will end up doing this inquiry, assuming that the Senate supports it, but that the report will come back to the Senate and be ignored again by government. You are not doing anything about farmers and dairy farmers. We will support this— (Time expired)