Mr PURCELL (Western Victoria) — The adjournment matter I raise tonight is for the Minister for Agriculture and concerns the dairy industry and the clawback clauses that have been used by both Murray Goulburn and Fonterra. As I mentioned earlier today, the horrific situation in the dairy industry is a problem. I congratulate the government on the initiatives that it has announced today regarding this situation which arose a few weeks ago.
The support packages put together in consultation with the Dairy Industry Taskforce include rural counselling and provide extra counselling and mental health first aid training, which is desperately needed and is a critical aspect that is far reaching. I would like to congratulate the task force on implementing the initiatives, and I hope it does take into account the suggestions that were made from the briefing today.
While the responses are welcome, it is critical the task force looks at more than just the issues that are currently in place. They need to look at the dairy industry from the farm gate onwards. In particular, we have instances where three milk tankers will follow each other up an unmade road to collect milk from different areas just because they are operated by different dairy companies. As well as this there is a need to improve the single-wire earth return lines which provide power to the dairy industry, and there needs to be transparency in the supply chain from the farm gate.
The matter I would like to raise in particular is in regard to the clawback. This is a situation where the dairy companies have said that at the end of the year they will be taking back 20 per cent of the income from the dairy farmers this year. This slashes the income of dairy farmers after it has actually been spent. The clawback is horrendous for any industry, but at this time of the year it is particularly difficult because this is when many of the dairy farmers make their significant amount of money.
The dairy industry does need to flourish and keep our agricultural sector alive, and I ask the minister to request that the Dairy Industry Taskforce liaise with the dairy companies to encourage an industry-driven clawback model that limits how retrospective a clawback can be and limits the percentage of that clawback.