NSW advocacy group Dairy Connect says the Dairy Industry Code of Conduct needs a better dispute resolution process.
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REVIEW: Dairy Connect chief executive Shaughn Morgan has urged farmers and processors to get behind the review of the Dairy Industry Code of Conduct.

The public submission period for the first review of the Dairy Industry Code of Conduct opened on July 5 and will run until August 15.

Dairy Connect CEO Shaughn Morgan said there were ways the code could be improved, particularly in relation to similar industry codes of conduct for other industries.

The dispute resolution process needed to be reviewed, as without the ability of parties to enforce the code provisions by quick, effective and inexpensive action, positive change would not occur.

“The code needs other mechanisms like conciliation as in the Franchising Code or expert determination as in the Oil Code,” Mr Morgan said.

“Parties should also have the power to choose their ADR (alternative dispute resolution) practitioner like in the Food and Grocery Code.”

The ACCC recommended that processors include detailed dispute resolution clauses in farmer contracts that allowed for binding determination or arbitration.

“This has not happened, the Dairy Code needs to bring in mandatory arbitration to settle disputes and allow for binding determinations as in the Sugar Code,” he said.

Mr Morgan said the ACCC had identified that there was no obligation for a processor to negotiate with a collective bargaining group established for that purpose.

“Dairy Connect will be making a submission on ways in which the collective bargaining process can be included in the Dairy Code as it is in the Franchising Code,” he said.

Mr Morgan called on dairy farmers and processors to get behind the review.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government was seeking input from dairy farmers, processors, industry representative bodies, government agencies and consumer organisations.

“The Dairy Code of Conduct was introduced on January 1, 2020 to address market imbalances in the dairy industry,” Mr Littleproud said.

“In this first review, feedback is required to make sure the code is operating as intended.

“The code is an important part of the dairy industry, and we want to make sure it is working positively for Australian farmers and businesses.”

A review reference group will support the first review of the code.

The group is made up of farmer and processor representatives from across the eight dairy regions.

The code intends to address serious imbalances in bargaining power at each level of the dairy supply chain.

Public submissions can be lodged at the Have Your Say website. https://haveyoursay.awe.gov.au/dairy-code-of-conduct-review

Dairy products and, in particular, grass-fed products are performing strongly post-covid in overseas markets.

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