Queensland and NSW Nationals MPs have put Senator McKenzie on notice over the federal government’s approach to implementing a mandatory code, and have threatened to move against her leadership position if they do not get a satisfactory outcome.
NSW MP David Gillespie added to the criticism of Senator McKenzie’s handling of the draft code last week, including complaints she had finally released it at the behest of Senator Hanson when Nationals MPs had be pushing the issue for years.
Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said Labor would support Senator Hanson’s bill because its objective mirrors the policy it took to the 2019 election including the implementation of a minimum farmgate milk price.
“For too long our dairy farmers have been caught in a cost-price squeeze and their plight has now been compounded by the shocking drought,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“The retail price of milk remains stubbornly low while farm input costs continue to grow. Tough talk by ministers about the big supermarket chains have proven weak, hollow and ineffective. If the government won’t move to help our farmers, Labor and the cross bench will.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said it was more than a year since the consumer watchdog had recommended the government develop and introduce a mandatory code of conduct.
“National Party MPs and senators are still arguing about what the code of conduct should look like, but the fact is they have had enough time to get the job done,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
Senator McKenzie announced last month the code would come into effect in January 2020, months ahead of schedule, courtesy of “the advocacy of her National Party colleagues”.
She said it was important the industry had an opportunity to provide final comment on the draft code because of the complexities in the sector between all states.
Australian Dairy Farmers has rejected Senator Hanson’s calls to re-regulate the industry and has asked all political parties to work with the government to find the most suitable actions to support the sector.
“Clearly this is an extremely complex policy discussion, particularly given our export exposure,” the lobby group said.
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra