Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter is furious that Queensland will import milk for domestic supply for the third year in a row, saying it was no wonder we no longer had sufficient farmers to meet demand.
He lays the blame squarely at the feet of “free-market fundamentalists” who had deregulated the dairy industry and forced many off their farms and out of work.
“When we had an arbitrated price for milk the farmers were getting 59 c per litre; the week after de-regulation when we no longer had an arbitrated price they were getting 31c per litre,” Mr Katter said.
“Arbitration was a reasonable price, it wasn’t a good price but it was a reasonable price.
“But deregulation drove dairy farmers below the cost of production and they could not survive.
“The biggest dairy area in Queensland is the Atherton Tablelands where they have green grass all year round – before de-regulation we had 240 dairy farmers, last time I looked we now have 38 farmers.
“The murderous heartbreak for all of those workers that lost their jobs – all of the contractors and farmers that were bankrupted, as well as businessmen from accountants to feed suppliers – but what was it for?
“We sell less milk overseas now and the economy of Queensland is taking a shocking blow.
“After de-regulation exports of dairy dropped by nearly $1,000 million per year from around $3,000 million per year to around $2,000 million per year.
“And there are plenty of other Athertons in Queensland,” Mr Katter said.
Mr Katter also highlighted the stupidity of the corporatised supply chain that sees milk travel halfway across the country rather than stay in its local area.
“For those that worry about C02 and energy costs – imagine the cost of bringing milk up from Victoria to North Queensland.
“Once upon a time it was known as orderly marketing – where North Queensland milk was supplied by North Queensland – and the efficiencies of this were enormous.
“But since Coles and Woolworths have different companies supplying them, we now watch the milk trucks going south from the Atherton Tablelands to supply the Brisbane market and they wave to another truck travelling north for another conglomerate as they pass.
“So half the milk is taken 2,000 km south and half the milk is taken 2,000 km north – Oh this is real smart.
“It was called orderly marketing – but now it is disorderly, uneconomic and just outright bloody cruel – all due to the criminal stupidity of the free-market fundamentalists,” Mr Katter said.