Federal Member for Indi Cathy McGowan and Labor’s candidate for the seat, Eric Kerr, have clashed over milk prices.
Last week Mr Kerr accused Ms McGowan of turning her back on struggling dairy farmers by refusing to support a motion in parliament to investigate measures to assist and support the dairy industry.
That measure was a motion put forward by Labor, which tasked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate a proposal to set a minimum farm gate milk price.
Without the support of independents the motion failed, and Mr Kerr put the blame squarely on the woman whose seat he hopes to take at the next election.
‘‘Let’s be clear here — Labor isn’t trying to impose a solution on farmers,’’ Mr Kerr said.
‘‘This is simply asking for the consumer watchdog to have a look to see if that’s an option which would help.
‘‘For too long farmers have not been paid enough for their milk and processors are not securing the best return. The dairy industry is broken and the situation is growing worse.
‘‘Milk production is down year-on-year, farmers are culling their cows and leaving the land.
‘‘If we’re not careful, we will be importing powdered milk from overseas.
‘‘Today’s dairy motion was one most people would expect Cathy McGowan to support to help dairy farming families in crisis.’’
Ms McGowan rejected this assessment and said she did not support the motion as it would not have solved the issues currently faced by dairy farmers.
‘‘I have a decade of working with the dairy industry and I know from experience that this sort of market intervention to set minimum prices will not work,’’ Ms McGowan said.
‘‘When a floor price in the wool industry was introduced, it failed. Wool was stockpiled and woolgrowers suffered as a consequence.
‘‘Floor prices just don’t work in the agriculture sector. What does work is building resilience in the farming sector and their communities.
‘‘The Drought Future Fund was passed yesterday by the parliament with all of my amendments agreed to by the government.
‘‘This will benefit all farmers and their communities.’’