Dairy crisis: Barnaby Joyce slams delay in getting promised payments to farmers
17th August 2016
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has criticised delays in the rollout of financial assistance for dairy farmers hit with milk price cuts.
In April, dairy giants Murray Goulburn and Fonterra announced retrospective cuts to the price they paid dairy farmers for the milk, which has left many facing significant financial problems.
During the election campaign, the Coalition announced a half-a-billion-dollar lifeline to struggling farmers in the form of a concessional loan program.
To date, only one farmer has been approved for a loan under that scheme.
Mr Joyce said that simply was not good enough.
“I believe they are taking vastly too long, it should be more expedited in a more immediate way,” he told 7.30.
“But the Federal Government doesn’t do the approval of loans, the Victorian Government is responsible for that.”
Mr Joyce said loan approvals in Queensland took around 25 days, while the Victorian process was taking up to 47 days.
“This is one of the things that drove us during the election to make one of our announcements that we would set up an investment corporation within the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to properly expedite this,” he said.
“So we are not always relying on state instrumentalities to approve the facilities that have been brought about by the Commonwealth Government trying to help these people.”
Mr Joyce and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with management of Murray Goulburn in Canberra on Monday, asking them to explain their actions towards dairy farmers.
Of key concern was Murray Goulburn’s decision to retrospectively cut the price it paid its suppliers, and demand they pay them back.
“They believe that the money is owed to them by the dairy farmers and, therefore, they are getting that repaid by the money they pay to the dairy farmers, basically taking it off the cheque they otherwise pay them,” Mr Joyce said.
“This creates difficulties because the price of milk is depressed at the moment for a range of factors, including international factors, such as oversupply globally and what has been happening with Russia and the Crimea and the trade embargoes that have been happening there.
“Now, we had discussions around that, and I don’t want to go further than that because it is a point under consideration.”
Dairy giant Fonterra will front the Government next week.