A GROUP of Gippsland dairy farmers have sought authorisation to collectively bargain with milk processors and distributors.
Victoria has the least number of dairy farmer collective bargaining groups registered in Australia.
The group, Gippsland Dairy Farmers, lodged its application on May 10 with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and submissions closed on Monday. Nine businesses represented as part of the application.
The Weekly Times asked the group representative Rob Del Busso of Sale a number of questions, including why it chose to seek authorisation via the ACCC rather than using the “umbrella” collective bargaining authorisation granted to lobby group Australian Dairy Farmers by the ACCC until 2021.
Mr Del Busso said: “The group members are merely following the steps and tools available to them in order to operate their farming businesses”.
Gippsland dairy consultant John Mulvany labelled collective bargaining groups “the most divisive and potentially dangerous activity that could damage the southern Australian dairy industry”.
“It’s a free country, but farmers who join these groups are clearly saying ‘I do not want to be paid what my neighbour gets paid’. Welcome to the 1970s all over again,” he said.
“We need to name and shame processors who are going to develop special payments for these groups … there may well be a competitive advantage for the processor who say they will not deal with a collective bargaining group and that their price is their price.”
There are between 20 and 30 dairy farmer collective bargaining groups operating in Australia, according to the ACCC report into the dairy industry, which was released last month. Seventeen of these have been authorised by the ADF, although not all remain active. There are eight registered via the ADF in NSW, including 128 dairy farmers, out of a state total of 661. Victoria has three via the ADF, representing the smallest number of farmers, 23 out of 3889.
By: SIMONE SMITH
Source: The Weekly Times