Queensland Senator Susan McDonald has called for the Federal Government to consider allowing for “big stick” measures in the Coles/Woolworths-dominated retail food sector to help dairy farmers earn more money for their produce.
The first-term Senator made the suggestion in the Senate yesterday (Tuesday) in response to a Letter of Urgency tabled by Senator Pauline Hanson calling on the Senate to recognise the Government must take action to ensure farmers were paid a fair farm gate price for their milk.
Senator McDonald said the Government opposed re-regulating the dairy industry but added the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission could be given powers in the supermarket sector similar to the “big stick” measures being debated for energy retailers.
“I think it’s time we give the ACCC the right powers to deal with repetitious and unfair bargaining practices by (food) retailers,” she told the chamber.
“We need to look at the impact of the market power of retailers to prevent unfair bargaining practices in the agri-food supply chain.
“Across the board, unequal bargaining power – from the retailer right through to the processors and farmers – is indirectly affecting farm gate prices.”
Just before this year’s election campaign, Senator McDonald stood with Queensland dairy farmers Brad Teese, Craig Brook, and Damien Tessman plus a live dairy cow in the carpark of an Aldi supermarket in the Brisbane suburb of Kenmore to protest for supermarket giants to pay fair prices for milk.
“Dairy farmers in my home state of Queensland are hurting and they’ve been leaving the industry in droves because it’s impossible to make a decent living under the current prices they’re getting for their milk from the big supermarkets,” she said.
“To be clear, the industry doesn’t want re-regulation, they just want to be paid a fair price for their product.
“Thanks to this Government achieving new markets, dairy farmers export about 36 per cent of their produce which boosts competition in the context of the Woolworths/Coles-dominated supermarket structure.
“But they are still in desperate need of fair domestic prices. Our farmers are the best in the world and we will continue to stand with farmers of all disciplines in their right for fair prices and access to more markets.”
More information: Julian Tomlinson 0421059187