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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Tired partisan clap-trap on dairy industry from superannuated Lib

On Twitter, there were some wide eyes and words of surprise when Peter Reith's op-ed piece appeared this morning on the ABC's The Drum website. A regular on the TV show that goes by the same name, Reith is a true ideological point-scorer, and his column, which blames the Labor Party for all the evils besetting milk producers in Australia, checks all the usual boxes. "It was almost like finding a barrow to push that had the LNP ideas in it," remarked an agriculture sector worker who read Reith's piece. "But it's so obviously nutty that it's like a spoof," added a dairy farmer who runs a useful blog.

Dairy farmers have been voicing their anger on Twitter about the predatory pricing of the retail duopoly, Coles and Woolworths, for months. They have even set up an online petition designed to gather support from the broader community in favour of their cause. The Big Two drop milk prices as a loss leader to entice customers through the doors of their stores around Australia, and aggressively advertise on the back of that. The losers are milk producers, who find it difficult because of a closed whoesale system to sell their milk elsewhere. What dairy farmers have been talking about is exactly what Reith avoids: collective organising. Through collective action, some dairy farmers feel, they might expect to force the Big Two to price milk fairly.

Superannuated ideologues like Reith sometimes say the most outlandish things in order to express support for the old cause, but in this case the trusty workhorse has truly jumped the shark. Just ask a dairy farmer. You can, they're on social media, and they are passionate about their business. It's just that they want a fair price. To stop the price pinch pushing more dairy farmers out of business, sign the petition and talk to your retailer to let them know that the status quo is unsustainable. We're lucky in Australia because our vast landmass and efficient farm practices mean that we have year-round access to low-cost, fresh and nutritious food. But the Big Two do not always play fair, and can use their massive commercial power to distort prices away from the point where they accurately reflect the cost of production. You can read more about the petition on this site.

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