“The government must commit to not just a small business procurement target but a very transparent and open process so that it can be held accountable for its decisions on where money is being spent.”
Ms Rohan said Maleny Dairies had done “everything right” in actively working within the Buy Queensland framework, only to have the rug pulled out from under it at the last minute.
“This is a genuinely small-to-medium business that has gone through the journey with government and done everything it needs to be doing,” she said.
“We think that locally owned business have a lot to gain by working with the government, it’s just a shame it didn’t happen here.”
Ms Rohan said it was not the first time the government had seemingly ignored its Buy Queensland guidelines and awarded a contract to a larger company.
She pointed to an example in Toowoomba, where locally developed online medical database MEDrefer was passed over for government contracts twice in recent years in favour of New Zealand companies.
The contract Maleny Dairies tendered for was to supply Queensland Health with fresh milk and milk products for hospitals.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner on Friday said it was his understanding Maleny Dairies had not been awarded the contract because it would not have been able to meet the supply requirements.
And he rejected descriptions of Lactalis as a foreign-owned company, because its local subsidiary Pauls had been awarded the contract.
“They will be sourcing their milk from 141 Queensland dairy farmers. They will also be supporting the over 500 Queensland jobs at Pauls,” Mr Furner said.
“So it’s important for everyone to understand what’s behind this and I do encourage Maleny Dairies in the future to tender for other contracts which may be out there.”
The secondary contract with Chinese-owned Lion Dairy was for a small range of milk products and only amounted to between 2 per cent and 3 per cent of the overall contract, the minister said.
For its part, Maleny Dairies said the decision was made purely on which company would be cheapest and was especially frustrating given the pressure being felt by the dairy industry.
“Had Maleny Dairies been awarded the tender, it would have ensured the safeguarding of the local workforce employed by the company and that of our dairy farms, which has seen Queensland dairy farm numbers drastically drop from 350 in 2018/19 to a shocking 303 in 2020,” the company said.
“In this case, the tender process appears to have been solely focused on the ability to deliver the cheapest milk, regardless of the consequences to local employment and industry collapse.”
Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.