Dairy

Call to fast-track commissioner

By Country News

A federal dairy commissioner with the powers of a royal commissioner could fast-track solutions to the myriad market challenges facing dairy production in Australia, according to one dairy group.

Dairy Connect chief executive officer Shaughn Morgan said positive action was needed.

‘‘In the run-up to this month’s federal election, appointment of a federal dairy commissioner is urgent as the industry nears crisis point due to market failure,’’ Mr Morgan said.

‘‘The crisis is due to the ongoing impacts of drought, dairy herds being culled, skyrocketing energy prices, higher production costs and unconscionable milk supply agreements.’’

With the proposed mandatory code of conduct not set to kick in until July 1 next year, Mr Morgan said the federal commission would allow decisions to be made immediately and independently of government.

He said the dairy industry had been subject to numerous inquiries and the publication of reports with recommendations, all of which have pointed out the need for urgent dairy structural reform.

‘‘An independent federal dairy commissioner should be empowered to immediately bring about structural change and ensure that the Australian dairy industry, and all that it represents in modern Australia, survives.

‘‘A dairy commissioner could ensure that the commercial activities of value chain stakeholders — including supermarkets and processors — are properly monitored, in particular with respect to milk supply agreements and low prices in the dairy cabinet.

‘‘Market failure has occurred and structural change is required now. Further commissioning of reports will not help battling dairy farmers who are surviving only on a day-to-day basis.

‘‘If concerns are raised in relation to the powers of a federal dairy commissioner, the government could specify a ‘sunset clause’ to ensure that such powers would lapse after a fixed period of time,’’ Mr Morgan said.

‘‘The time has passed for just talk and ongoing review, now is the time for urgent action. Failure is not an option.’’