Monday, 2 December 2019
I seek clarification. The business today provides for the introduction of the dairy bill put forward by Senator Hanson. The Senate has already provided—on Thursday—that Senator Hanson can introduce the dairy bill and she can indeed speak to it as part of the normal introduction procedures. It sounds to me as if the motion that she is now proposing is inconsistent with what is on the Notice Paper, so I'm just seeking clarification. We are prepared to provide leave, obviously, to do what is on the agenda, but if she is seeking to vary the agenda then we have not been advised of what the proposed plan is and we are not in a position to support it without any engagement from One Nation with the government in relation to these matters.
I'll provide advice to the chamber, having just checked with the Clerk. Leave was granted for Senator Hanson to move a motion in relation to this bill. The effect of this motion would be to bring it on for debate, not for what I would call the more regular process for the introduction of a bill, where debate is adjourned to a subsequent day. Senator Cormann, to answer your inquiry, this would actually bring it on for debate immediately.
I would indicate, on behalf of the government, that, while we are happy to facilitate the introduction and for Senator Hanson to give her second reading speech, we will not be supporting a variation to the business of the Senate in the way that is proposed in that motion.
Senator Hanson didn't have an opportunity to speak before Senator Cormann rose. You can close the debate if you wish, Senator Hanson. The impact of this will be, I understand, that the debate will be put to a vote immediately after Senator Hanson speaks to it, so if any other person wishes to speak to it I suggest they stand now. If not, I'll call Senator Hanson. Senator Hanson.
Senator Hanson, just a correction: you were granted leave to move a motion to have the bill brought on immediately, which is a variation of the agreement last Thursday, which was to introduce the bill. The normal process would be to table an explanatory memorandum, have the bill introduced and table a second reading speech. We are now debating your motion as to whether or not we would proceed beyond those stages to a full second reading debate at this stage today, which was not agreed last week. So leave hasn't been denied for you to introduce the bill. We are now speaking to the motion—and you've got 20 minutes to speak to it—to introduce and have a full debate on this today, including other second reading contributions, not just your own second reading speech being tabled. So I invite you to continue to speak to that particular motion.
I will, thank you. Australians will be listening to what is going to happen in this chamber today relating to saving the Australian dairy industry. As I've raised previously, we are losing the equivalent of one dairy farmer a week in Australia. They are devastated that they are actually being stopped. When I hear the Nationals say, 'But we are doing what we can to help the dairy industry,' it is not the truth. For 4½ years, there has been inquiry after inquiry into the dairy industry. Nothing has happened.
There's been talk about a code of conduct. Where is it? It was only because I forced the issue that this code of conduct has been drafted up, and it is a pathetic draft—absolutely pathetic. It is not addressing it. Why have we moved so far from the ACCC recommendations on a dairy code of conduct to something that has been drafted on the run and is protecting the processors? A lot of the dairy industry participants that I have met admit that it does not go far enough to protect the dairy farmers.
All that I'm asking for, and what the people of Australia want, is a fair farmgate price for dairy farmers' milk. You can't expect them to run a business if they are not getting paid the cost of their milk to produce that milk. Don't you understand where we are? We're in dire straits in this nation. We had 22,000 dairy farmers. We're down now to 5,200, according to what the minister told me last week. We've lost another 500 just in the last year and a half, if that. That doesn't mean to say that these people are producing milk. A lot of them have held onto their registration purely in the hope that the industry will turn around.
This government has been so supportive of our dairy industry being sold to foreign interests. Chinese own the biggest dairy farm in Tasmania, with about 19,000 head of cattle. They're exporting their milk overseas. There is no reason why we should be supporting this. They now want to buy up Bellamy's, which has been supported by our Treasurer Frydenberg, and people here have said, 'What's the problem with that?' We've gone from 12 billion litres of milk in the year 2000. Now we're just scraping over eight billion litres of milk.
You talk about registering the industry. People must understand that this industry is not what it was previously, when it was supported by the state and federal governments. This is not going to be supported by either party or either government. This is about the farmers having a contract in place that the processors must pay them a fair price for their milk, and you're going to deny them that. There is nowhere else in the world where this is the case. We're the only country that doesn't have a regulated industry. Even in New Zealand, their milk is regulated. America and Europe have regulated the dairy industry, and they're powering ahead in their export market and their domestic market. They're producing more milk now. But you are so blinded and so bloody-minded that you are prepared to actually destroy the dairy industry in Australia. That is our food security. That's the people.
Exactly right. Where are the Nats? Where's the National Party on this? Where are you standing up for the dairy industry? Have you been out to any of the dairy farmers? Have you actually looked in their eyes? Have you ever seen what they're going through? You have no idea. If you don't support this bill to give them a fair farmgate price, all it is—
Honourable senators interjecting—
I don't want to hear the same old rhetoric. The actions on the floor of parliament speak for themselves.
Order! Can I remind senators, firstly, that interjections are disorderly and, secondly, that this is a procedural motion about whether a bill should be called on for debate; it is not a speech on the second reading of the bill. Senator Hanson will continue without interjections.
This is where it's so important. We are about to finish in parliament in four days. At the end of this week, we will go on our holidays—a holiday from this place, although probably a lot of us will continue to work. But the fact is that people out there are trying to grasp at straws, to hold on and to pay their bills.
I hear a National Party member—Senator Susan McDonald—say, 'Oh, well, we should get the retailers, Woolworths and Coles, to actually collect the money from the consumer, and then pass it back through the processors to the dairy farmers.' In what other industry do we do that in Australia? Do we tell the strawberry farmers and the other fruitgrowers, 'Sorry, you won't get your money until the retailers have sold their product, and then we'll give you back what we think is fair'? Didn't we try that? Didn't Woolworths and Coles put an extra 10c, which went back to dairy farmers, and then another 10c on top of that, which didn't go back to them? Do you really trust these two organisations that have the biggest monopoly in the country? These are the people—Woolworths—who underpaid their workers by $300 million. They didn't pay them the right wages, and you trust them to do this? There is no common sense to what you're saying here—that the farmer should not get at least a production cost. The bill covers a fair farmgate price. Even Barnaby Joyce has come out saying they should receive a fair farmgate price.
Then the other part of the bill is that the ACCC will oversee the regions to ensure that they will stipulate what a fair farmgate price is—not the parliament, not the members of the House, this chamber or any parliament. That is up to an organisation to actually set that up. The third part of the bill is the divestiture so that the processors will not control the market. Most of the processors in the country are foreign owned. Do you really think it's in their best interests? Let me tell you about the foreign ownership; you've allowed all our industries and manufacturing and our essential services to be privatised in the country. We have over 750 multinational companies here that have a turnover of $612 billion a year, and do you know how much tax they pay? $10 billion. The coalition thought it would be wonderful to actually increase that and go after multinationals to pay their taxes here. I have been advocating since 1997 that they pay their taxes in Australia. You did a wonderful job! You've reined it in by 1.63 per cent! We've got an extra $125 million! How wonderful you guys are!
So you are prepared to see this happen in a dairy industry that has a tradition in this country of providing the milk that we need for the domestic market. If you think it's going to actually upset the world trade, it doesn't work that way. This is a domestic market. How it can affect trade agreements is if we actually subsidise the dairy industry. They increase production, which then affects the world market. We are nowhere near that. What we are doing is ensuring that we have a dairy industry for future generations. Otherwise, I will tell you now, we will be buying long-life milk out of New Zealand. Their production is up to 22 billion litres a year.
So the fact is that we need to protect our dairy industry in Australia. It is very important. The people of this nation will be watching this today to see what we are going to do about it. I call on those people. Have a good look at this. If you are opposing this, I say to you: get the bloody guts to stand up as an individual and represent your constituency and the people of this nation, because they feel as if they have been absolutely forgotten. These people are on their knees. I've got one, a dairy farmer up in the Scenic Rim, who has to sign a contract with a processor to get 50c a litre for the milk. That is well and truly below production for a six-year contract. This is what the processors are doing. They're screwing dairy farmers so that they can't make any money out of it. All farmers want is a fair farmgate price.
It is bullying, and it's not fair on the farmers here. You are going through this issue now, and, I tell you what, the people of Australia feel the coalition government are not supporting them enough, as far as the drought goes. You've brought in all these measures; you're going to give them all this money—and the paperwork—and it's going to take months and months before they get any assistance from the government. Do you really understand what is happening in this country? I don't think you do. The people are sick and tired of your same old rhetoric. I'm sick and tired of the procrastination that happens in this chamber. We are all given our wages, but these people have to fight tooth and nail to be able to get a fair go. That's all they want—a fair go.
Since this industry was deregulated in 2000, it's done nothing but go downhill all the way. It's gone downhill because of your free trade agreements and because you believe in deregulation. It hasn't helped. Surely you can see that. You can see what's happened to our industry here: it hasn't helped the dairy farmer. These communities are shutting down. Dairy farmers put a lot of money into these small towns and these communities. If you destroy that, you're going to shut down a lot of communities, and you are going to shut down jobs and—what's important to me—a way of life. That's what we still have in Australia. It's about a way of life. It's got nothing to do with how much money they make. This attitude that the government have is: 'Get big or get out.' It's not about getting big or getting out; it's about a way of life. These people have been in it for generations. They want to be on the land. It's their right to be on the land, whether they make a million dollars a year or whether they make a few dollars just to put a roof over their head and feed their family. That is their choice. Well, it was until governments—not me, because I wasn't a part of this—ruined this nation with the policies that they've brought in. They have destroyed the Australian way of life and standard of living. This is because of government policies—both state and federal—that have changed over the years.
If you've got the guts, get out the front this morning and go and meet with the farmers—if you're prepared to go and meet them. That's another issue: to deal with the water. But this is where we need to actually debate this whole issue. Let's put it up on the floor of parliament today. Let's put it to the vote and let's see how you vote on it. Let's see if you're prepared to stand up and back the people in your own constituency as far as the dairy industry goes.
Senator Rennick interjecting—
Senator Rennick wants to keep having a go at me. I don't think he really understands. Senator Rennick, fair enough, says he's from the land and he understands what it is to be on the land. But if he votes against this dairy bill, without pure common sense and without explaining why it needs to be voted against, then he doesn't have an argument. He's just like the rest of the sheep following the party line—you put up your hand when you're told to put up your hand. That's exactly why I find a lot of people don't have the bloody guts to stand up for what they truly believe in this place—because they won't get preselection next time around. Well, isn't it a shame. I tell you what, whether I get elected at the next election or not, at least I will be able to look back and think that I stood up for principle, I stood up for what I believed in, and I wasn't dictated to by anyone on anything. I will know that the people will judge me. If I go against my conscience and what I truly believe in fighting for the people out there on certain issues, then I will be judging myself for the rest of my life because I didn't stand up for what I truly believed in. It is a shame that other people don't do the same. I can speak from my experience talking to other former members of parliament who regret that they never had the guts to stand up for what they truly believed in.
If you understand what this place is about, you understand that people out there are watching us: how we vote, what we say, and how we react. And our actions speak louder than words. They're depending on us to make the right decisions for their future and for their wellbeing and for the future of this nation. You know what the talk is at the moment? They're sick and tired of seeing the Chinese have so much influence on our nation, whether it's in parliament, industries, social media or education—everything. And yet I don't see that you're really standing up to fight against it. And that's what the people see.
Our actions will speak for themselves, and the people will judge us. So I'm asking you: let the debate on this bill go through. Then we'll have a vote at the end of it and let the people know that we do support them. I hope this bill gets up so we can give them a bit of hope that we are really listening to them. That's what the people want: they need hope that we really care. I would ask you a question if you want to get up, Senator Rennick, and oppose this. I will say it to you then: what have you got to win by opposing giving a fair farmgate price for the milk, or what have they got to lose? What is it? If you deny a fair farmgate price for the milk, what on earth are you going to win by it? Who are going to be the losers out of this?
At the moment, we haven't got a fair farmgate price. At the moment, we are losing people out there. Suicides are happening. People are losing their properties, their homes. It's a pity. If you were wearing their shoes, what would you do? What would you beg? What would you ask of the people trying to make the decisions for you? Isn't it about giving them a fair price for their milk? Isn't that what it's about—to ensure that we have milk on our shelves? Are you going to be quite happy with powdered milk?
The fact is that the dairy industry is going to be bought up by the Chinese, because, as people walk away, foreign interests are buying it up. They're going to go from paddock to plate. There's nothing in the legislation that says that these companies have to keep their milk here in Australia. Van Diemen's Land are exporting two planeloads of milk a week to China, getting $9 a litre for their milk. There's nothing to say that we have to force them to keep the food here in Australia. It's all about food security. That is why it is important that we look at the future of this nation and its food security.
I thank the Labor Party for supporting me on the dairy bill in the past, and I thank the Greens for their support for the dairy industry. They get it. It is the coalition who have turned their back on it, and it's been mostly the National Party who have turned their back on the farming sector and the dairy industry in Australia. They get up and say: 'But she's stolen our policies. This was our policy. It's on our wish list, but we won't do anything about it.' That's exactly it: they haven't done anything about it. Then they say, 'But we got the code of conduct up on the sugar industry.' BS! They did not. It was because I pushed the issue that we got the code of conduct up on the sugar industry. In a matter of five hours, you could get it up and have a code of conduct. Why has it taken weeks to get the code of conduct up on the dairy industry, when you know damn well you've changed it around to assist the processors? For processors, it says, 'If they come under financial strain or legislation is changed, they shouldn't lose any profits whatsoever.' Where is that in the contract for the farmers? Nowhere. There is absolutely nothing. So don't tell me you are looking after the dairy farmers. This has all been set up for McKenzie because her state, Victoria—
Senator McKenzie is looking after her state. She's acting as a senator for Victoria, not the Minister for Agriculture for this nation. She has been pathetic in her handling of this. She can have tantrums and throw the furniture around in her office as much as she wants to, but the fact is that this has to be dealt with. This is about the people of this nation and the dairy industry, which we need to support. She might want to back up her dairy industry, which has 64.3 per cent of the herd in Victoria as the rest of the nation goes under, so they can export their milk to Queensland and get 87c a litre from Norco, when dairy farmers up there are lucky to get 61c a litre. Yes, they do want to see them go under in Queensland and the rest of the country, because they get more money in Victoria. So this is all about protecting her own interests; it is not about the farmers out there. She says that she never heard from any of the dairy farmers. I've had the Queensland dairy industry, representing 78 per cent of the farmers up there, saying, with the documentation, 'We want a fair farmgate price.' Also the New South Wales dairy industry said exactly the same—as did Dairy Connect. They all want it, but they won't produce it. They won't do it.
It's going to fly in the face of the National Party if they don't support this and give the dairy industry a fair farmgate price. They're the ones who are going to prove to the Australian people that they don't give a damn about our agricultural industry. It's all smoke and mirrors. Is that what you really want? It's all smoke and mirrors. Put your money where your mouth is and stand up and support them. If you're saying that that's what you're doing, then do it. Stop talking. Your actions speak louder than words. If Senator McKenzie cannot support the dairy industry bill today—if this gets up—then I'll call for her resignation as agriculture minister.
The time for the debate has expired. Before I put the question on this motion I remind senators what the effect of this motion will be. The effect of this motion will be to not only introduce the bill, which would have happened by order of the Senate last Thursday, but also bring it on for debate and sweep away other business until 12.20 pm, unless the debate is adjourned beforehand, so it will take all of the time until 12.20 pm. If this motion is not supported by the Senate, Senator Hanson will still have the opportunity to only introduce the bill and table a second reading speech, as is the normal course of events when a bill is introduced by a non-government senator. The question is that the motion moved by Senator Hanson be agreed to.
As I have said, there is the option for Senator Hanson to introduce the bill pursuant to the order last Thursday without it being further debated. Senator Hanson.