By BRIAN TESSMANN, QDO President
The election of Barnaby Joyce to the Federal National Party Leadership and consequently the Deputy Prime Ministership has been an issue of greater public interest for some time. The QDO congratulates Minister Joyce along with Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash, who won the deputy Leadership, on their success. We also wish them strength, courage, energy and wisdom in carrying out their roles as the challenges facing the Nationals, the federal coalition government and the Nation at present are significant.
A key issue Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals must address is the problems and market function failure in the Australian domestic food market. This includes proper due consideration of the outcomes and subsequent actions arising from the Harper review into the Competition and Consumer Act particularly the changes to section 46 and the necessary introduction of an ‘effects test’. It must be remembered that when the now Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was elected to the Liberal Party Leadership and consequently as PM the new coalition deal required proper consideration of the implementation of the ‘effects test’.
It is vital not only for dairy, but for many small businesses including agricultural and rural family enterprises. Minister Joyce and the Nationals must hold the line on this issue. It will take some of the strength and courage with supermarket duopoly led big business pulling out all stops to oppose and change. Seeing as the powerful big end of town has the Liberal and Labor parties in their pockets on this issue, it is up to the Nationals.
The failure of market function at the domestic level has led to a significant, even disastrous decrease in milk production in many areas of the nation. The stagnation of production growth across the country is seriously limiting Australia’s ability to capitalise on overseas market opportunities. This problem impacts the domestic supply dominated regions more heavily, but while some are averse to admit it in fact hits every dairy farmer in Australia. So if Australia is to see any gain from the growth in international demand for dairy the Nationals must hold their ground and their nerve on the section 46 ‘effects test’ issue. Otherwise all we will see is fatter profits for supermarkets at the expense of both farmers, trade earnings and in the longer term consumers.