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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17090

Mr BALDWIN (9:54 AM) —I rise today to bring to the attention of this House yet again the plight of dairy farmers. Two weeks ago dairy farmers Keith Watkins, Dallas Clark, Bob Koppman and Cliff Ranclaud met with me, the Prime Minister's office, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to discuss their desperate plight. In response to that meeting and a report by the Australian Associated Press, I had a phone call from Dairy Farmers and this week I met with Stuart Silver, Dairy Farmers Group External and Government Affairs Manager, and Kim McGhie, their lobbyist, who proceeded to tell me that I was wrong. They told me that when they dropped the price of milk by 3.2c a litre they did it so that our dairy farmers and their company could survive. What they have failed to understand is that, by dropping the price below production cost, my dairy farmers are now subsidising the bottom line of companies like Dairy Farmers.

They then turned around and said to me that it was the actions of the major supermarkets in driving the price down, in a situation where Dairy Farmers branded milk is $2.94 for a two-litre bottle and yet the Bi-Lo brand is $1.99. I say to Dairy Farmers and to the supermarkets that it is not going to be too long before we have no dairy farmers out there producing milk. I have been informed this week that most of the dairy farmers in my electorate who lease properties will now be walking off those properties. They do not have the financial wherewithal to keep funding and sponsoring companies like Dairy Farmers—and they are but one—to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars to prop up their bottom lines because the companies have reduced the milk prices below that cost of production. To give you an example, Bob Koppman runs 130 head of cattle and he considers that, under the new prices, he will lose $40,000 per annum. `Bluey' Watkins runs a herd of around 270 cattle and he will be propping up the bottom line of Dairy Farmers to the tune of $100,000. These people have been farmers for years and years—for generations. The people in these companies are now asking my dairy farmers to prop up the companies' bottom lines while they sit there on their fat salaries with little or no risk—because, at the end of the day, all they need to do is drop the price of milk to cover their bottom line.

I ask the supermarkets and processors, like Dairy Farmers and other corporations, to consider the fact that, if they keep going down this path, there will no longer be dairy farms. I also understand the Primary Industry Bank is now going to look at foreclosing on some 300 farmers around New South Wales, because they do not see their businesses as viable. Remember: the primary industries are the backbone of Australian industry. If we keep going down this path, we will have no dairy industry left in this country.