Dairy

Farmers: fine too puny

By Rodney Woods

Dairy farmers are of the opinion that Gary Helou was let off lightly after the former Murray Goulburn managing director was fined $200000 in relation to false and misleading claims made during the 2016 milk price crash.

A former supplier from Mead, Dianne Bowles, who now supplies Australian Consolidated Milk, said the fine was not enough considering it was more than just financial losses that hurt the industry.

‘‘The fine was completely inadequate,’’ she said.

‘‘Considering he was paid $2million in the year before he left, it’s not a very large fine and I don’t think it will be painful for him to pay.

‘‘If you equate that to what farmers have lost, it doesn’t correlate. It’s not the same.

‘‘In effect, he’s gone to another job and we are left with the mess.

‘‘For some of us, and I put myself in this group, things that stunt our mental health and the lack of wanting to be the dairy industry can’t be fixed with a fine, regardless of how big the fine is.’’

Lockington’s Ron Read, who has been impressed with Saputo’s early dealings, agreed that the fine did not add up.

‘‘I don’t think it was enough for what damage had been done,’’ he said.

Mr Read said the decision to not fine Murray Goulburn was a sensible one.

‘‘No sense to fine Murray Goulburn because it would just hurt the owner — us farmers.’’

Despite the fact that farmers would have had to pay if Murray Goulburn had been fined, Ms Bowles said alternative punishments should have been considered.

‘‘I’m not very impressed at that either,’’ she said.

‘‘Companies have boards and are responsible to oversee these things. I still think different things could have been done.’’

Numurkah resident Marie Martin had sympathy for farmers affected by Murray Goulburn’s decisions and announcements.

She said the report in Country News which said Mr Helou had been ‘‘slugged’’ by a $200000 fine was the wrong description as she didn’t think the level of fine was much of a penalty.

‘‘I don’t think that reflected the gravity of the situation and the damage that had been caused by his misleading statements.’’

She said the result of the misleading statements would have caused the industry much more damage than the fine reflected.