Farmers Fire Up at Forum

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

Tough questions were on the agenda at the Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation (QDO) AGM and Annual Dairy Forum held in Toowoomba last Tuesday. Guest speakers fielded questions from rightfully frustrated and increasingly impatient dairy farmers on what governments and industry were doing to deliver real market changes needed to fix current failures.

Earlier in the day, farmers were entertained by a thought-provoking and often humorous presentation by former professional Rugby League footballer Shane Webcke, who outlined his past experiences and current philosophy regarding work place health and safety. Farmers were also given the latest information on various markets in the Dairy Australia Situation and Outlook Report from Norman Ripocoli from Dairy Australia.

The key people the farmers had come to hear were Mick Keogh, Head of the ACCC Dairy Inquiry, and Chris Ketter, the Chair of the Senate Economics Committee, who have been undergoing inquiries into the dairy industry. I would sincerely like to thank the Senator for diligently taking on some pointed questions from the floor. I was encouraged to hear he supports making the code of conduct mandatory.

It was however concerning to hear Mick Keoghs now doubts most dairy farmers would be covered by the new unfair contract protection extension despite his earlier public assurances. My concern was deepened by later discussions with the ACCC which indicated the recently passed Effects Test would be applied by them horizontally rather than vertically in the supply chain.

I am sure all supporters of the Effects Test, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, would have intended it to be applied vertically and considered it to be spelt out that way. QDO Executive Officer Eric Danzi and I will travel to Canberra next week to resume discussions with politicians on these issues affecting the industry.