THE Government must not 'cowtow' to supermarkets, writes JOHN COBB
While Australians laugh at this season's Lambnesia ads for Australia Day, the dairy industry alarm increases with the Federal Government continuing to "cowtow" to the supermarkets.
Australia Day marked the second anniversary of the supermarkets' $1-a-litre milk campaign and, while supermarkets deserve their share of the blame, the saddest part of this campaign is the Labor Government's complicity in the industry's demise.
The supermarkets marked the anniversary by extending the $1-a-litre milk to their service stations to take market share from the beleaguered corner store and will further erode industry sustainability.
For the Government it is business as usual as it continues to ignore the industry and dismiss the unsustainable supermarket practices.
From the start of the $1-a-litre milk campaign Mr Ludwig and his predecessor Tony Burke came out in support of Coles, claiming it was "good news for milk drinkers" before even speaking to the industry about the impact.
It's not just Labor's inaction; Labor's policies have also been actively adding to farmer's pain and accelerating the industry's contraction.
The recent dairy crisis meeting at Noorat confirms what most of the public in the real world already know: small business cannot continue to absorb extra and growing costs.
Warrnambool dairy consultant Mike Hamblin's carbon tax assessment that the average Australian dairy farmer will pay an extra $7500 a year in increased energy and processing costs is a conservative estimate.
In fact many larger farmers will end up paying about $20,000; figures the Government is unable to disprove. The carbon tax is just the tip of the iceberg; Labor has had the four largest budget deficits in history.
This has put upwards pressure on interest rates, which has kept Australia's rates higher compared to the rest of the world.
Dairy farmers have lost workplace flexibility to employ people on shifts of less than three hours and the government has been asleep at the wheel getting improved access to overseas markets.
For Joe Ludwig, his inability to stick up for his portfolio industries is symptomatic of his failure as minister, whether it is the dairy industry, live exporters, apple or potato growers.
The Coalition, if elected, will scrap the carbon tax and review the Competition and Consumer Act to assess supermarket powers and push for arrangements that ensure the long-term viability of the dairy industry.
- John Cobb is the opposition agriculture spokesman