Min­is­ter backs the code

Central Queensland News - - RURALWEEKLY - Peter Hunt news@ru­ral­weekly.com

FED­ERAL Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud has backed dairy farm­ers’ call for a manda­tory code of con­duct to im­prove con­tract­ing prac­tices be­tween farm­ers and pro­ces­sors.

Mr Lit­tleproud said he would “work with farm groups to get this code right”, af­ter peak lobby group Aus­tralian Dairy Farm­ers voted seven to six in favour of back­ing a manda­tory code.

“Now that we have di­rec­tion from the or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sent­ing dairy farm­ers across Aus­tralia, we can move for­ward,” Mr Lit­tleproud said.

“I agree with ADF that a manda­tory code must de­liver cov­er­age across the en­tire in­dus­try and im­prove bar­gain­ing power for Aus­tralian dairy farm­ers.

“While a manda­tory code should im­prove bar­gain­ing power, it is un­likely to change milk prices.”

La­bor agri­cul­ture spokesman Joel Fitzgib­bon has al­ready com­mit­ted to in­tro­duc­ing a manda­tory dairy code if La­bor is elected at the next fed­eral elec­tion.

While ma­jor­ity of state dairy farmer or­gan­i­sa­tions voted in favour of a manda­tory code, the United Dairy­farm­ers of Vic­to­ria used its six votes to op­pose it.

As Ru­ral Weekly re­ported in May, Tas­ma­nia, NSW, Queensland, South Aus­tralia and West­ern Aus­tralia have long backed a manda­tory code but faced stiff op­po­si­tion from pro­ces­sors, es­pe­cially New Zealand pro­cess­ing gi­ant Fon­terra.

Pro­ces­sors and the United Dairy­farm­ers of Vic­to­ria have re­peat­edly ar­gued a manda­tory code would take up to five years to de­velop, be costly and im­pose sig­nif­i­cant costs on farm­ers.

How­ever an ex­am­i­na­tion of manda­tory codes, de­vel­oped by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and po­liced by the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion, shows that most take be­tween 12 and 18 months to de­velop.

The ACCC al­ready over­sees manda­tory codes on unit pric­ing, fran­chis­ing, oil, wheat ports, sugar and hor­ti­cul­ture.

The ACCC has pre­vi­ously stated that once the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment ini­ti­ated a code, it would un­der­take a process of con­sul­ta­tion, a reg­u­la­tory im­pact state­ment would be drafted and the fi­nal code would be tabled with Par­lia­ment for 15 sit­ting days.

The ADF has stated the de­ci­sion to back a manda­tory code has been a “dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion and one that ADF did not take lightly”.

“There are a broad range of views within ADF’s mem­ber­ship and these views are deeply re­spected and un­der­stood,” they said.

“It’s hoped the in­tro­duc­tion of a manda­tory code will be a vi­tal step in re­build­ing trust and con­fi­dence along the dairy in­dus­try sup­ply chain.”

The ADF stated a fu­ture manda­tory code must:

● In­clude an in­de­pen­dent dis­pute res­o­lu­tion pro­ce­dure, with small claims to be in­ves­ti­gated

● Out­law ret­ro­spec­tive milk price step-downs

● En­force con­tract and price trans­parency

● Be re­viewed within three years, in­clud­ing an assess­ment of the code’s ef­fec­tive­ness.

The ACCC will po­lice the code, which will be de­vel­oped in con­sul­ta­tion with the in­dus­try and as a mat­ter of course will un­dergo a reg­u­la­tory im­pact assess­ment and reg­u­lar re­view.


IN FAVOUR: Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources David Lit­tleproud in the press gallery at Par­lia­ment House in Canberra. He has backed calls for a manda­tory code of con­duct be­tween farm­ers and pro­ces­sors.

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