A new specialist tasked with looking solely at dairy industry claims to work within the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been welcomed by the country’s peak dairy farmer group.
Australian Dairy Farmers congratulated federal agriculture minister Bridget McKenzie on her commitment to delivering a multi-million dollar election pledge to benefit the dairy industry, including the creation of the new dairy specialist role and an $8.1 million budget extension for the competition watchdog’s agriculture unit.
«Minister McKenzie must be commended for acting quickly on the government’s election promises,» ADF president Terry Richardson said.
As part of the arrangement, a new Dairy Consultative Committee will be established to help enforce the industry’s new mandatory code of conduct.
Mr Richardson said the committee must be given the power to test all claims relating to the mandatory code.
«We believe the committee should focus on the code of conduct and other matters that fall under the remit of the ACCC. This includes acting on all complaints that are brought forward,» he said.
«The ACCC uses a public benefit test to determine which claims it pursues, but in our view this threshold is likely too high for many of the claims potentially breaching the code.»
Mr Richardson welcomed the $8.1 million funding boost for the ACCC agriculture unit, a significant boost to the $2.7 million outlined in the 2020 budget.
«The Coalition’s commitment to ensure continued funding of the ACCC’s agriculture unit is a timely and welcome announcement,» he said.
«This will ensure that the mandatory code of conduct is appropriately resourced, and the decision to appoint a dedicated dairy industry specialist within that unit is an important step in the process.»
The federal Department of Agriculture is currently drafting the code of conduct following two rounds of consultation. A third round will take place once the draft code is released to gain further feedback.
The United Dairyfarmers of Victoria also backed the initiative, saying the new committee must be given the power to consider all claims relating to breaches of the mandatory code of conduct.
«For this committee to effectively enforce the dairy mandatory code, they must consider claims of code breaches made by all dairy farmers, regardless of size,» president Paul Mumford said.
«When enforcing industry codes of conduct, the ACCC has a public benefit test to determine if it will peruse an alleged breach.
«We are concerned that many dairy farmers will not meet the requirements set out under the public benefit test, potentially leading to the dairy farmers with the least amount of bargaining power in the dairy supply chain being disadvantaged.
«It is important that this new committee ensures all dairy farmers are treated fairly as they all contribute to the dairy industry and the community, and deserve equal protections under the mandatory code,» he said.