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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12226


Ms MARINO (ForrestOpposition Whip) (19:31): I strongly support the motion moved by the member for McMillan and I thank him for bringing it before the House. I am a dairy farmer and I know first hand that the dairy industry in Australia is our third largest rural industry. It is a major regional and urban employer of approximately 40,000 people, directly on dairy farms or in transport, milk processing, manufacturing or the marketing and distribution of high-quality products, as well as in research and development. We in our industry are continually improving herd management, productivity and efficiency and are producing from predominantly pasture-based farming what you might call free-range milk. Each farm has a documented on-farm safety program, HASP quality assurance auditing and full traceability.

The dairy industry was worth $3.4 billion in 2009-10, ranking third behind the beef and wheat industries. It is a leading rural industry in terms of value adding through downstream processing—something that is not well appreciated. It is often the industry that underpins many small communities and local economies. Dairy farmers contribute directly to local volunteer organisations, emergency services and sporting groups. It is often their tractors and farm implements that are used for community projects and fundraising efforts. In Western Australia we only have just over 160 dairy farmers left in the industry. We might need to talk to Coles and Woolies about that as well.

Dairy farmers around Australia have to compete in international markets with many countries that support domestic pricing through a combination of tariffs, subsidies, import restrictions, government purchasing and subsidised disposal of surpluses. Now we have another hand behind our backs because, as we heard earlier, we are going to be hit by a carbon tax. There is no way that someone in a domestic market like Western Australia can pass that cost on—you have to absorb it and wear it in your business. This is a real issue for dairy farmers right around this nation and particularly in domestic market states.

How many of us take for granted the quality of milk products in Australia? I would say just about everyone. Everybody assumes it is always going to be there and it is going to be best in the world, which is what we produce, but I do not know how many understand the nutritional value of dairy foods. It is a unique package of over 10 essential nutrients that are important for healthy blood, nervous and immune systems, eyesight, muscles and nerve function and for healthy skin, energy levels and growth and repair of all parts of our body. Dairy foods such as wonderful icy-cold milk, cheeses and yoghurt contain proteins, vitamins and minerals—magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and all sorts of wonderful calcium. We should all know that we need three serves of calcium every day as part of a balanced diet, to build and maintain strong bones and prevent osteoporosis. This occurs where we lose calcium and other minerals, and the bones become fragile and tend to fracture easily. It affects one in two women and one in three men over 60 in Australia. Healthy Bones Week is in August each year. Over the years we have seen excellent marketing and information campaigns based around the simple message: are you getting enough? In previous years in my role in the industry in a voluntary sense at the royal show, I used to get a lot of feedback from the city based consumers when they would walk into the pavilion and I would ask, 'Have you had it today?' They would look at me with a very interesting look on their faces! What I was referring to of course was whether they had had their milk that day and their three serves. This was a voluntary marketing and promotional effort and I would wear a badge that said, 'G'day, I am a dairy farmer.' A number of city people would come up to me and say, 'You are not really a dairy farmer.' I would ask, 'What do you want to know?' Their response to what I had to tell them about life on a dairy farm was interesting. I was told, 'You do not look like a dairy farmer,' and I would ask, 'Well, what do we look like?'

I also want to mention the efforts of a wonderful group called the Milk Industry Liaison Committee. This is a group of women who have worked tirelessly in the dairy industry in WA in some extreme circumstances. It is an industry under pressure. It is an industry that struggles to drive commercial returns and attract the value into the supply chain that it really does deserve. It is producing a high-quality product every day of the year, day in and day out, no matter what the weather is. I say to every dairy farmer who is out there at the moment in my part of the world, 'Hey, we've mowed, raked and baled,' and I know that all my mates are out there doing exactly the same thing. They milk their cows morning and night and they are out there in the paddocks all day. They do it for no thanks and frequently very minor returns on their investment. They are very good at what they do. I have to say, once again, that we in this country take for granted the quality of food that is produced by our dairy farmers.