Milk war debate rages on
QUEENSLAND dairy farmers again called for action from politicians on the supermarket duopoly, after moves by two key independents to tighten the retailers' choke-hold on the grocery market in recent weeks.
Independent MP Rob Oakeshott last week introduced a bill to strengthen anti-competitive rules governing the supermarkets' activities across markets including fuel, dairy, groceries and generic branding.
His bill was debated in parliament on Monday, but was not listed for final debate before parliament rose for the election.
It came after similar efforts by Queensland MP Bob Katter to get the government to act, through a proposal to force the retailers to reduce their market dominance over several years.
But despite these efforts, and several recent Senate inquiries into the problems, no signals have been made by either major political party to tackle the problem.
It sparked Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation president Brian Tessmann to again call for action.
He said Mr Oakeshott's bill was largely in line with what the entire industry had drafted and been lobbying for, but "with little response or appetite for action" from the government.
"The QDO has long been advocating for the need for strengthening the rules around competition, as it is clear that the market has failed farmers with the supermarkets selling milk at the unsustainably low price of $1/litre, and causing downward pressure on farm-gate milk prices, which flies in the face of a booming world market and major steps up in prices now being paid to dairy farmers supplying that export market," he said.
"With a large dairy farmer constituency, Mr Oakeshott clearly understands the importance the industry has for his local economy - just as it is so important for so many regional Queensland areas.
"We have lost 80 farmers from the Queensland industry since the milk war began, causing a loss of $240 million in investment in fresh milk production and more than 240 jobs on farm, along with many more jobs lost by processors and other parts of the value chain.
"Clearly, these laws and government action are both badly needed."
He also welcomed action by other crossbenchers including Mr Katter, Senator Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie, but to no avail.
"The QDO is continuing to advocate for a mandatory code of conduct and an ombudsman with real power, and have lobbied for this in Canberra this week," he said.