Re­view vol­un­tary code

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Alana Chris­tensen

North­ern Vic­to­rian dairy farm­ers who at­tended a meet­ing in Shep­par­ton have shared their mes­sage loud and clear, say­ing they can­not sup­port a manda­tory code of con­duct for the in­dus­try.

That was the key take away from the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion in Shep­par­ton last week, with the Fed­eral Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources test­ing the re­gional ap­petite for such a mea­sure.

A key rec­om­men­da­tion of an Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion in­quiry into the dairy in­dus­try, a manda­tory code of con­duct was sup­ported by Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud.

But many dairy farm­ers said it could not, and should not, go ahead.

The ACCC in­quiry was done af­ter Mur­ray Goul­burn and Fon­terra im­ple­mented retroac­tive price step­downs in April 2016.

A manda­tory code of con­duct would seek to ad­dress a num­ber of is­sues, in­clud­ing cool­ing off pe­ri­ods when en­ter­ing and ter­mi­nat­ing con­tracts, im­ple­ment­ing a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion process, pro­hibit­ing retroac­tive step­downs and lim­it­ing ex­clu­sive sup­ply clauses be­tween pro­ces­sors and farm­ers.

If rec­om­mended, a manda­tory code would need to be en­dorsed by fed­eral cab­i­net and passed through Fed­eral Par­lia­ment.

And any changes would also need to pass through par­lia­ment, leav­ing many con­cerned changes could take years, all when the costs and po­ten­tial con­se­quences were un­known.

Co­bram East dairy farmer Paul Mundy said the answer was clear.

‘‘No manda­tory stop,’’ he said.

The dairy in­dus­try code, full has a vol­un­tary code of con­duct in place, which some of the 40-strong crowd be­lieve should be re­viewed be­fore mov­ing to a manda­tory code.

‘‘Let’s iron out all the prob­lems with the vol­un­tary code and then move for­ward with a manda­tory code, if it works out,’’ Katunga farmer Brid­get Goulding said.

Fol­low­ing ACCC re­view into a num­ber of is­sues, in­clud­ing petrol prices, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and en­ergy prices, Katunga dairy farmer Daryl Hoey was pes­simistic about the prospects of suc­cess.

‘‘Why would I have any con­fi­dence in them to han­dle this?’’ Mr Hoey said.

A draft ver­sion of the manda­tory code was ex­pected to be re­leased for con­sul­ta­tion late this month or early next month.

❝Let’s iron out all the prob­lems with the vol­un­tary code and then move for­ward with a manda­tory code, if it works out.❞

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