September 17, 2009
The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has called on Federal Parliament to provide much-needed assistance for the dairy industry “at such a critical time in its history”.
“The dairy industry is as critical to the seat of Gippsland as the car industry is to a city like Geelong and yet we have seen a remarkable double standard in the government’s treatment of the two industries at this time of economic crisis,” Mr Chester told Federal Parliament this week.
“It is a crisis which I stress is beyond the control of individual dairy farmers.
“Our dairy farmers are among the most productive and efficient in the world. They are world-class producers of a world-class product.
“My community has been particularly hard hit by the drop in prices and I have sought assistance from both the state and federal agriculture ministers for the development of an industry assistance package.”
Mr Chester said the dairy industry has a strong long-term future in the region, but needed assistance to deal with the current difficulties.
“I am particularly concerned about our younger farmers who may be carrying significant levels of debt. I believe we need to give them confidence in their futures on the land,” he told Parliament.
“The government could provide assistance to ensure our dairy farmers are not forced to sell their herds or their water, destroying the prospects for recovery when export markets inevitably recover.
“I am optimistic about the longer term future but we need to take action now to help our farmers get over the hump before them so that they are in a position to continue to produce quality Australian dairy products in the future.
“There needs to be a survival plan developed to assist our farmers through what I believe will be a difficult 12-month period. Both state and federal governments need to demonstrate their support for a viable dairy industry right across Australia and be prepared to offer assistance during this period.
“As a nation we have bailed out the car industry … We have also handed out billions of dollars in $900 cheques to prop up the retail sector.
“I think it is reasonable to develop an assistance package for the dairy industry in these exceptional circumstances. It would be a modest package in comparison to those cash splashes that we have seen by the government.”
Mr Chester also took the opportunity to call on Government to fund dairy infrastructure as part of the MID 2030 Strategy.
“It staggers me that this government has been prepared to hand out $900 cheques but has not even looked at a critical issue, such as investing in improved infrastructure delivering increased water security in Gippsland,” Mr Chester said.
“The dairy industry in Gippsland is faced with ageing infrastructure and an inefficient system. The MID 2030 Strategy was released two years ago and can improve the supply system.”