QDO takes dairy issues to Canberra

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

For three days last week, Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation president Brian Tessmann, executive officer Eric Danzi and adviser Mike Smith travelled to Canberra to meet with members and senators from both sides of the chamber. The key meetings included Shadow Agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon and Barnaby Joyce’s office. Mr Fitzgibbon agreed to work with QDO on some more innovative ideas and we found the deputy PM’s key adviser, Simon Price, to be very knowledgeable on the issue and open to working through options.

QDO also received strong support from Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath and House of Representative Members Llew O’Brien (Wide Bay) and Scott Buchholz (Wright). QDO received interest from the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, who was keen to find out more about the unfair competition issues plaguing Queensland dairy farmers.

High on the discussion list for all members were the ‘effects test’, unfair contract legislation, the Senate Economics Committee’s recommendations, and the current ACCC inquiry that is set to report on 1 November. In regards to the ‘effects test’, QDO is working to ensure the ACCC properly interprets both the effects and the extension of unfair contract protections to small businesses.

Under existing arrangements, Australian dairy farmers are not entitled to collectively boycott processors or retailers. This means if farmer groups engage in any form of picket line or strike-type action, not only will they be liable for damages, the ACCC could charge the group for engaging in illegal industrial action. This was made clear to QDO and Australian Dairy Farmers’ (ADF) in recent talks with the ACCC which confirmed it would not hesitate in taking legal action against farmer organisations who engaged in such activities.

Most members and senators have agreed to work with QDO to find viable solutions based off recommendations of the Senate Committee and findings from the yet-to-be-released ACCC inquiry. It appears that there was bipartisan, in-principle support for restoring market fairness in Queensland. However, actions will go a lot further than verbal reassurance.