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Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Page: 1255

Mr OAKESHOTT (9:44 AM) —I rise today to talk about the dairy industry and concerns expressed by many in dairy communities about the current price war going on amongst major retailers, in particular driven by the actions of Coles, who have put in place a $2 home brand price campaign. That has been matched by other retailers, such as Woolies, and I understand Aldi and others are now coming on board. In rural dairy communities there is incredible nervousness. They have lived through a decade of deregulation. The rights and wrongs of that have been played out by many. That 10-year period saw the number of dairy farmers in my community drop from 150 down to about 35 or 40. If we now have a price war that is unsustainable—and I use the word ‘unsustainable’ because Woolworths have said it is a price that is unsustainable—it will have flow-on impacts on regional and rural communities.

Government must act. The ACCC must do its job and look at the long-term implications of short-term loss leaders and price wars such as what is going on now. I have asked the Prime Minister to consider the issues around this price war. I have asked the ACCC and Graeme Samuel to respond to the issues around this price war. I have also asked government to get its skates on with regard to food policy generally. I think this is an opportunity to really deliver on the question that is facing many communities to do with staple products: just what is the place in public policy of fresh and local nutritional products in Australia today? We have an obesity crisis. It is well identified, yet we seem to be accepting the increasing loss of key products that are being priced out of the market. That is a loss to regional communities but it has broader implications for food security in Australia.

I hope that on those two fronts—the ACCC and the start of some public discussion around food policy generally—we see some action from government and government agencies. I hope we do not have to go through the public rallies, town rallies and jersey cows out the front of Parliament House to recognise the place that dairy farmers have in this country. (Time expired)