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Thursday, 2 December 2004
Page: 72

Senator O'BRIEN (2:22 PM) —My question is also to Senator Ian Macdonald, the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Can the minister advise whether Minister Truss was consulted by Minister Anderson or Mrs Kelly in relation to the decision to grant $1.26 million to A2 Dairy Marketers under the Regional Partnerships program? What role did Mr Truss's department play in the assessment of the A2 Dairy Marketers' application? In particular, what role did the department play in assessing the likely impact of the A2 operation on Dairy Farmers' nearby Malanda plant?

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —Again, Senator O'Brien highlights the concern the coalition have for people in country Australia and the lengths we will go to to try to assist people with legitimate projects. In relation to the specific question that Senator O'Brien has asked, I do not have any information on that and Mr Truss's brief to me from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry does not refer to that. I will make an inquiry to the department, Senator O'Brien, and if there is anything useful I can give you I will get back to you.

Senator O'BRIEN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Thank you for the undertaking to take the question on notice, and I look forward to the answer. Whilst inquiring about that information, could the minister ask Mr Truss to address this question: given the subsequent collapse of A2 Dairy Marketers following the company's conviction for false advertising, what consideration has Minister Truss given to compensating those dairy farmers who may have purchased A2 cows on the strength of the government's decision to grant the company $1.26 million through the Regional Partnerships program?

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —I understand from those media reports that Senator O'Brien has referred to that some Queensland dairy farmers are facing financial loss as a result of the liquidation of A2 Dairy Marketers. These farmers are reportedly owed money for the delivery of milk to the company for which they have not been paid. I am sympathetic to those producers and, indeed, to any individuals who have suffered financial loss due to the company's going into liquidation. However, the farmers involved in supplying milk to A2 Dairy Marketers made a commercial business decision to do so, and I am sure they would understand the risks associated with commercial arrangements of this nature. Ultimately, it is not appropriate for the government to become involved in legal processes surrounding the liquidation of this particular company.