Advocacy group Dairy Connect has challenged political parties and MPs to signal their support for a Royal Commission.
This followed a pledge by the National Party candidate for the Eden-Monaro by-election, Trevor Hicks, that, if elected, he would move a motion to enact a royal commission into dairying nationally.
Dairy Connect CEO Shaughn Morgan said that while the industry had been regularly inspected and analysed, there had never been a broad-ranging inquiry with powers appropriate to a critical analysis of the entire supply chain.
“There have been a number of stakeholder and parliamentary committees looking into the Australian dairy industry over many years, with many of their reports now gathering dust on the shelves of Parliamentary libraries and MPs’ offices,” he said.
“Many of the recommendations from past inquires had either been paid ‘lip service’ or quite simply ignored.
“A royal commission would overcome the intransigence of government in implementing appropriate reform in an industry where market failure has been occurring since deregulation 20 years ago.
“Dairy Connect supports the call for a royal commission where the terms of reference specifically looked at ways to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Aussie dairy industry and thus kept future generations of dairy farmers on the land, providing fresh nutritious milk 24/7 to consumers.”
Government must heed the information provided
Shaughn Morgan said a royal commission would deliver well researched recommendations that government could not ignore.
“The recommendations could set the platform by which the dairy value-chain industry could return to viability and provide a pathway to the future for the long-term growth of Aussie dairy farmers,” he said.
“It could supplement that work being done by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission who are supervising the implementation of the Dairy Mandatory Code of Conduct.
“A commission’s terms of reference will play a vital role in setting the parameters by which any outcomes can be judged.”
Mr Morgan said the royal commission could not be like past inquiries where information had been gathered, reports written and recommendations left to gather dust.
“The dairy industry is now well and truly ‘one minute to midnight’ and if things do not change in a positive proactive manner the industry will not exist as it is currently operating within a generation,” he said.
State by state analysis
Dairy Connect Farmers Group president Graham Forbes, said a royal commission would need to look at differences and needs between ‘fresh milk’ states like Queensland, NSW and Western Australia comparing them with Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
“The time has come to stop importing dairy produce that is labelled as being ‘Australian’, the time has come for us to look at ways in which we can address the inequities between those who produce compared with those who process, sell and/or market our nutritious dairy produce,” Mr Forbes said.
“Dairy Connect applauds the initiative of the Nationals candidate for Eden-Monaro, Trevor Hicks, for indicating that he will cross the parliamentary floor to ensure the passing of legislation to establish a royal commission into the Australian dairy industry.”
Any legislation will require more than 50 per cent of those in the parliament to support it.
“We call upon MPs and political parties to indicate their support or otherwise for a proposed royal commission and its terms of reference,” Mr Forbes said.
‘Time for action, not words’
Mr Morgan said the time had well and truly come for action not words and rather than look to the past, it was time to look ahead to the future.
“The time has come for us to be able to ensure that the Australian dairy industry is sustainable in the future not only for those in the industry but also for customers of fresh nutritious milk and dairy produce, and those who want to buy Australian milk and dairy produce,” he said.