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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 136

Dairy Industry

Mr DRUM (Murray) (14:28): My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. Will the minister update the House on measures that the government is delivering to support dairy farmers? Is he aware of any alternative proposals?

Mr JOYCE (New EnglandDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (14:29): I would like to think the honourable member for his question and congratulate him on his recent win in the seat of Murray. Obviously, coming from a dairy farming family, as he does, this is an issue that is very close to his heart. It is also good to acknowledge that in the gallery we have people from the Loddon Murray community and from Northern Mallee Leaders as well.

The dairy industry is going through some problems at the moment in Victoria, and this is no better articulated than by what is happening to the people who are supplying Murray Goulburn. We have made sure that we have got out there on the front foot and are starting to deal with those issues straightaway.

We are delivering a $579 million dairy support package to assist farmers and $555 million in dairy recovery concessional loans. Additional rural financial councillors are also being delivered. We have put $905,000 towards additional rural financial counsellors. We have $900,000 for Tactics for Tight Times. We have put $2 million on the table to establish a milk commodity price index and we are making sure that we get back to those who are hurting, by delivering the farm household allowance. There are over 200 people, in fact 208, now receiving farm household allowance. This gives about $1,000 a fortnight for a couple to make sure that they can keep some dignity in their lives. We have been having meetings with Fonterra and Murray Goulburn—we had a dairy symposium—and tomorrow I will have meetings with Farmer Power. I will also be having meetings with the Western Australian dairy farmers to make sure that we are at the forefront of trying to assist these people.

We have also instigated section 95H of part VIIA of the Competition and Consumer Act to further investigations into Murray Goulburn, which will give us greater transparency in the relationship between the dairy farmer and the processor and between the processor and the retailer, to make sure that we get a proper look, so that we can see that there is decency and fairness in contractual obligations, as well as what we are doing to assist them on the ground.

There have been questions asked about concessional loans. There are now 26 that have basically been approved. Two have been taken up; the other 24 can then take them up whenever they wish to, as is their right. The Victorian government is responsible for that. Other people are looking for other, maybe entrepreneurial, forms of somehow dealing with these problems. I have been looking around, because you asked for other ideas at other, entrepreneurial, forms of financing. One could not go past a greater form of entrepreneurial financing than that of Senator Sam Dastyari. He has a truly novel form of crowdfunding. I do not know what you would call it. We look forward to asking what the Leader of the Opposition is going to do with Senator Sam Dastyari. (Time expired)