Barnaby milks Coles call

Sharon Kemp | Bendigo Weekly | 20-May-2016

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ALL SMILES: National Party leader Barnaby Joyce and candidate Andy Maddison.
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National Party leader Barnaby Joyce has taken credit for Coles’ 20 cent per litre milk fund in response to the dairy crisis in regional Victoria.

In Bendigo on Wednesday night to introduce local National Party candidate Andy Maddison, Mr Joyce said he had asked northern Victorian farmers struggling with the fall in the farmgate milk price how the Nationals could help.

“They want us to talk to the retailers, we have done that, we have now got 20c a litre from one of the major ones, Coles, that is a premium on the product that can go back to the farmers,” Mr Joyce said.

“This is the difference a National Party makes.

“It is never perfection but it actually, definitely indicates effort and resilience and our ability to get from where we are to here, to regional Victoria and stand in your towns and fight for your issues on your turf.”

Mr Joyce noted the Coles fund, which it says will raise up to $1 million a year for dairy farmers, was open to attacks by cynics.

The dairy industry has called on consumers to support farmers by buying brand name milk, not home brand product sold by Coles and Woolworths which is cheaper but priced at unsustainable levels.

“Some people are cynical about (the Coles fund), but I support them,” Mr Joyce said.

“I think it is a great idea and we should always congratulate people who do the right thing.”

Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business, said on ABC Rural the big supermarket chains had weakened the market with aggressive price moves.

Mr Strong said the immediate situation was created by Murray Goulburn not dropping its price early enough, and the global price had collapsed.

“(But) in Australia the fragility of the sector has come from Coles and Woolworths and what they’ve done to the sector,” Mr Strong said.

In Bendigo, Mr Joyce would not be drawn on directing Murray Darling Basin water to recreational uses such as in Lake Eppalock, saying the economy was the biggest priority.

“I think the biggest thing is to make sure you have an economy, an economy underpins the social and economic fabric of any area,” he said.

“You can see that in the dairy industry, you can see that in other forms of the irrigation industry, we want to make sure that we keep the money flowing around regional Victoria.”

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