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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13295


Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (12:21): The electorate of Flynn does carry a lot of rural products, farmers and people trying to make money off the land. I would not say that dairy farmers are a dying race, but there are a lot of dairy farmers dropping out of the industry. The thing with Australian dairy farmers is that we know Victoria produces the most milk and we produce about nine billion litres of milk a year, with four billion used locally for Australian consumption and the rest being exported overseas. This is the problem dairy farmers have in my area, as with dairy farmers in New South Wales. In my electorate, there are only 29 dairy farmers left, and they produce about a million litres of milk per year per farmer. That milk is processed in the Port Curtis Dairy Co-op in Rockhampton. There is going to come a point in time when that 29 million litres of milk is no longer viable to go through that PCD plant. So what happens then to those 29 farmers? They are currently having their contracts drawn up again. They have been getting about 60c a litre for the primary milk and about 16c for the class 2 milk. This is hardly making it viable, and with the new contracts they face through their processors, Parmalat and so forth, they do not think the industry will be viable for a very long time. Two have closed down in the last two weeks.

When I come to citrus farmers, we have the biggest mandarin citrus farm in the Southern Hemisphere at Emerald; it is called the 2PH farms. These guys are struggling because of the high Australian dollar. All their mandarins are exported to Europe, America and South America. They produce a lot of mandarins and they could not survive without hiring the South Pacific labourers from places like Samoa and Fiji. This scheme is very good for them because in Emerald, which is strong in mining and other agricultural areas, they cannot get workers for their citrus farms. So they employ these South Pacific islanders who do a very good job and who are very good community people. They come in, they are allowed seven months to stop and work on the citrus farms and then go back to their homeland. With the citrus farms come big cold rooms and big chillers and they have been hit by the carbon tax, which is making them buckle at the knees. I will be fighting for those farmers. The dairy farmers also suffer from this high carbon tax levy. Wheat farmers are getting about $320 or $280 a tonne; it fluctuates. When I was at Emerald in 1980 they were getting $200 a tonne then, so the wheat price has not gone up a lot but their overhead costs have gone up alarmingly since 1980. The price of machinery has gone up and everything has gone up. For farmers generally their product prices have not gone up.

The beef producers have got much better, as have all our Australian rural producers. They have had to get better or they do not survive. We have ginger farmers in Bundaberg who are going along okay but face the threat of imported ginger from Fiji. As we know, ginger in Fiji has a disease, so we have to be careful with our biosecurity. The product has got to be properly quarantined because one thing we do not want is to have this disease sweep through our ginger farms at Bundaberg. There are macadamia nuts. The wine producing areas of Central Queensland are not big but they still produce wine. Cotton is a very expensive crop to grow but offers good returns if everything goes okay. In the 2008 floods and the 2010 floods in Flynn all the cotton farms were wiped out and it was heartbreaking to see the cotton modules underwater and sucking it up like a big sponge.