W Australia toes line on dairy deregulation

By FWi staff

WESTERN Australian dairy farmers have backed industry deregulation in a state-wide ballot to guarantee funding for all Australian dairy farmers under the Federal Governments A$1.63 billion (607m) restructuring package.

Although the Senate passed the package last month, the Federal Government stipulated that its distribution hinged on all states agreeing to the move.

As the last – and the most recalcitrant – state to go to the polls, WA dairy farmers voted 58% in favor and 42% against.

WA dairy section senior president Eric Biddulph told The Weekly Times that his “guts was churning” as he sat down to vote.

“All the time, I knew the whole of the Australian industry was watching to see what wed do,” he said.

“I was wondering why I was doing this. It just came down to the fact that while none of us wanted deregulation, we had no choice if we wanted to share in the deregulation package.”

When Victorian dairy farmers, where 62% of the nations milk is produced, voted to deregulate in December last year, the other states had little choice but to follow.

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Bruton Knowles

Deregulation comes into force on 1 July and farmers should start receiving the restructure package payments in September after the Senate ratified the move last month.

However, in Queensland, another state where deregulation was bitterly opposed, farmers might have the last laugh after the Queensland Government gained a commitment from Australias largest retailers not to stock Victorian or any other interstate milk after deregulation on 1 July.

State Primary Industries minister Henry Palaszczuk said retailers Coles and Woolworths had promised to remain loyal to Queensland farmers by refusing to stock pasteurised milk from New South Wales or Victoria.

“I welcome their commitment to Queensland milk,” he told The Weekly Times. “I would encourage all retailers to sell Queensland milk, if they are not already, and promote it.”

The move follows fears by Queensland farmers that cheap milk from the southern states will flood their market after 1 July and undermine prices.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will investigate whether the Queensland retailers action is anti-competitive.

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