If retailers get to a point where they support a ten cent levy on each litre of milk to go directly to farmers, I am happy to try and help to facilitate it as a temporary measure while structural reform happens in the industry. I support the principle of a temporary levy.
We all know many of our farmers are really struggling right now.
The dairy sector in particular is having a tough time. Many of our farmers are being paid less than the cost of production. This is unsustainable. If our farmers don’t make it through the tough times, they won’t be there to supply Australia milk in the future.
The fact is $1 milk has devalued the milk category in the eyes of consumers by making it cheaper than water.
I’ve met with the two big supermarkets and Woolworths has shown leadership on this issue. They say they’re on board so long as other retailers are too.
Coles is more reluctant but I hope they’ll come on board. I intend to speak to ALDI and IGA/Metcash as well.
The Department of Agriculture is currently investigating ways a temporary levy could be implemented.
Woolworths and Coles are sensitive to the impact of ten cents extra per litre of milk on family budgets, and I am too. Consumers need to understand the impact of having few Australian dairy farmers north of the Victorian border would be much greater in the long term.
Consumers have huge power here. All those who are outraged on social media would do more for Aussie farmers by paying a ten cent levy than they do by sharing a video on Facebook.
The ACCC report into the sector identified market failure. I asked the dairy sector to come to a united position on a response to the report and a mandatory code of conduct for the dairy industry. This has not yet happened. I’ve been Minister eight months and this problem has been around more than 20 years—deregulation began in the 1990s—we’ve got to start somewhere and get our farmers through this tough period.