| February 27, 2017

How does our dairy industry help the Australian economy?

Delivered: Monday 27th February 2017, House of Representatives, Parliament House. 

Damian Drum: My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

Will the minister update the House on the contributions of Australia's dairy sector to the Australian economy?

What are the obstacles to the viability of this industry?

What are the jobs that it creates for hardworking Australians?

Mr JOYCE (New England—Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources): I thank the honourable member for his question and note that dairy farming in Shepparton accounts for 22 per cent of Victoria's dairy production. It is home to 1,040 of Victoria's 4,711 dairy farms. Australia's dairy industry is a $13 billion manufacturing and export industry, and over 6,000 Australian dairy farmers produce close to 10 billion litres of milk each year. It is good to note that, after the dairy crisis and after working with the industry, prices are now starting to rise again. Fonterra's price is over $5 a kilo for milk solids—

Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting—

The SPEAKER: The member for Hunter is warned!

Mr JOYCE: and it is also noted that the price for Murray Goulburn has risen to $4.95. So we have had a substantial increase in the dairy price. It is also interesting to note that the Australian Labor Party did absolutely nothing when, under Labor, the price was vastly lower than it was when we called it a crisis.

The direct impact of what we are seeing, though, in Victorian Labor's 40 per cent renewable energy target is that it is driving up the cost for electricity producers. Electricity is such a vital component of dairying production. We see it with the dairy shed and in their refrigeration. Every section has had to deal with it. With some of the producers down there, we have noted VicFeeds operations, a family-owned stockfeed pellet manufacturing mill that supplies dairy farmers in the Goulburn Valley and Gippsland. They are looking at a 151 per cent hike in the cost of their electricity in the next 12 months.

Of course, you cannot just keep putting those costs onto business. If you put those costs onto businesses, the businesses will go out of business. What we now have is the Australian Labor Party mimicking their state colleagues in South Australia, and we know what the result of that is. We do not have to model what happened in South Australia. It is there for everybody to see. It is a complete fiasco. It is creating immense pressures on business. It is driving people out of work. It is driving manufacturing out of the state. And now we have the Australian Labor Party seeming to not really care about labourers anymore. Unless they want to change their policy, this will mean that they are going to stand behind a policy that they will do to the Australian Commonwealth what the Australian Labor Party has done in South Australia.

Now, it is interesting today—and it has been worth noting—that the member for Maribyrnong, the Leader of the Opposition, has no interest in coming to the dispatch box to defend his party's policy. He is very interested in writing on a piece of paper. He is very interested in not looking at the cameras. He likes to look down, but he does not like to look at his own policy. But I think the Australian people want to know what he has to say about his own policy. The Australian people want to know what is going to happen to Australia under his policy, rather than what is happening in his notes.


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