Australia’s dairy industry has been overlooked by the two politicians aiming to set the nation’s agricultural agenda, as the 2022 election campaign enters the final fortnight.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and opposition agriculture spokeswoman Julie Collins were asked by The Weekly Times to outline their plans for dairy over the next three years. Both failed to respond.
United Dairyfarmers of Victoria vice president Mark Billing said the lack of vision from Canberra over dairy was “just not good enough”.
“There was a lot of goodwill for dairy through the past two years of Covid. We kept the milk flowing from the farm to the factory to the supermarket, despite all the challenges,” he said.
“Australians really took notice of the value of not just dairy, but agriculture as a whole and take these things less for granted than perhaps they once did.”
Mr Billing identified increased input costs and labour shortages as key concerns for the sector, which will necessitate higher retail prices.
He said biosecurity and support for flooded farms in northern NSW were also simple funding announcements were a federal government can make a real difference.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison inspected Norco’s Lismore factory shortly after the northern NSW floods in March but follow up funding is yet to be announced by the PM nor Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
“We see a lot of attention with bushfires but the floods have really hit a lot of farmers hard. They shouldn’t be forgotten about just because they’re out of the news,” Mr Billing said.
Mr Littleproud has previously promoted the benefits of the mandatory dairy code of conduct but offered little new Coalition policy for the sector, which has faced more than a quarter of its farmers leave the sector in the past five years.
Ms Collins was asked last month whether Labor planned to re-regulate the dairy industry.
“We’ve been talking to dairy farmers, and we’ll be making announcements about what we want to do in the coming weeks.” Ms Collins told ABC radio in early April.
No announcement has occurred in the past six weeks since the interview.