darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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April 7, 2011

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says he is looking forward to speaking in support of a petition from Gippsland churches which calls for a ‘fair go’ for local dairy farmers.

The petition containing more than 500 signatures was presented to Mr Chester today during a meeting attended by representatives from local churches and the dairy industry.

Mr Chester acknowledged it was unusual to receive a petition from churches on an economic and industrial issue but said it reflected the level of concern in the community about the corporate behaviour of the major supermarkets.

“There are some genuine issues of social justice, fairness and equity in the way the major supermarkets are using their corporate power to deflate milk prices,” Mr Chester said.

“If we wanted to find a religious comparison, this is a ‘David and Goliath’ battle where the dairy farmers and smaller retailers are standing up to Coles and Woolworths.

“The decision to sell home brand milk at $1 per litre may provide some short-term benefits to customers but the long-term impact on farming families and branded milk producers will be devastating.

“The big corporations are only interested in increasing their market share and these milk prices are unsustainable and will damage the dairy industry across Australia.”

The petition was initiated by the Uniting Church and calls on the House of Representatives to act on the recommendations of the Senate Economics References Committee report titled: ‘Milking it for all its worth – competition and pricing in the Australian dairy industry’.

The petition highlights concerns that “supermarkets appear to be using their dominant market positions to drive down the farmgate price through the sale of generic products”.

“We note that at times this is leading to severe hardship amongst dairy farmers, accelerating the process of forcing some to have to leave their farms,” the petition reads.

Mr Chester said he would submit the petition to Parliament when sittings resume in May.

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