Maleny Dairies

Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (5.10 pm): I rise to support the motion moved by the member for Glass House. Queensland dairy farmers are hurting. A dairy farmer leaves the industry approximately every five to seven days. Today there are just over 300 dairy farmers compared to 1,500 in 2001. These statistics paint a very dark picture for the industry. Inadequate and unacceptably low prices paid for their milk is one of the main reasons that so many are leaving the industry. That is on top of the high feed costs associated with the devastating drought. It is pushing Queensland’s dairy industry into high-speed freefall.

Amongst the doom and gloom there are green shoots of hope with small processors such as Maleny Dairies willing to pay their farmers a fair and ethical price for their milk. While other processors are complacent about having their Queensland farm suppliers close because they can truck milk in from southern states to meet demand, Maleny Dairies continues to grow and add Queensland dairy farmers to its supply list. Maleny Dairies is not alone in being a Queensland dairy success story. There are other small processors, such as Cooloola Milk in my own electorate. It also produces a high-quality product and pays its farmers a proper price for their milk. Those small enterprises should be encouraged and not undermined by government.

That is why it was so shocking when, three weeks ago, the state Labor government showed just how out of touch it is by awarding the metro north hospital contract to multinational companies instead of local producers. It chose French owned Lactalis and Chinese owned Lion, instead of 100 per cent Queensland owned and operated Maleny Dairies. Maleny Dairies was encouraged to apply for the tender under Labor’s Buy Queensland and Buy Local dairy procurement policies. It is extraordinary that the government would encourage them to be involved, only to lead them up the garden path. It was disingenuous and callous. Queenslanders who want our local industry to survive and flourish are angry.

We know that because almost 13,000 petitioners have signed a parliamentary petition and more than 40,000 have signed a petition calling on the government to reverse the decision. The public is not happy.

There are serious questions around the ethical and sustainable farm-gate prices those foreign owned processing companies pay dairy farmers. The government’s own Buy Local policy set by the industry developed Procurement Advisory Board for dairy products states that ‘local’ means that a minimum of 85 per cent of raw or fresh milk product must be from Queensland. French owned Lactalis has publicly said that it is willing to source milk from down south, rather than paying Queensland dairy farmers a fair price. Given those comments, will the minister guarantee that 85 per cent of the raw milk consumed through the hospital contract will be sourced from Queensland farmers?

The Lactalis and Lion brands do not feature on the website of the Queensland Dairy Farmers’ Organisation website, which lists brands produced right here in Queensland using at least 80 per cent Queensland dairy. If the QDO does not regard Lactalis and Lion—

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry, member. Pause the clock. Minister for Public Works, I have just given a direction to the House. Member for Glass House, you have made your contribution.

Mr PERRETT: If the QDO does not regard Lactalis and Lion milk as fulfilling the local milk criteria, why did the government choose them over a 100 per cent owned and operated processor such as Maleny Dairies? Maleny Dairies knows its products come from local dairy farms. Today’s news that Lactalis is closing its Rockhampton milk factory, with 40-plus jobs to go, makes one question its commitment to our dairy industry. Lactalis is also scaling back production at its South Brisbane site.

They are cutting and running. Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Buy Queensland policy is nothing more than a three-word slogan—

Mr SPEAKER: Member, you need to use members’ correct titles in the chamber.

Mr PERRETT: The Premier’s Buy Queensland policy is nothing more than a three-word slogan based on false hope. The government’s own Buy Local website lists Maleny Dairies on the Queensland government’s Food and Beverage Supplier Directory. It does not list Lactalis or Lion.

Unfortunately, the outrageous treatment of Maleny Dairies is not an isolated example of the failure of the Buy Queensland policy. There are numerous other examples of government contracts awarded to interstate or overseas based companies. They show up the hypocrisy of the government. It likes to talk about support, but when opportunities arise it does not deliver. It tries to divert attention with phony assertions that supporting Maleny Dairies is just pitting farmers against each other.

It makes sense to support a wholly locally owned company. Awarding the contract to French and Chinese companies is a slap in the face to Queenslanders. It runs counter to any policy that is designed to support and grow Queensland jobs. The LNP wants to grow and maintain a dairy industry that pays farmers ethically and fairly. We should support and encourage value-adding to our agricultural products and the government should support these Queensland owned and operated businesses.