Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce have called on the Victorian Government to better assist dairy farmers struggling with low milk prices.
Turnbull and Joyce met with dairy processor Murray Goulburn in Canberra this week.
After Murray Goulburn and competitor Fonterra retrospectively cut milk prices earlier this year, the Federal Government announced a $579 million concessional loan package to support farmers surprised with significant debts as a result.
But with ABC recently revealing that just one loan has been so far handed out under the program, Joyce went on the offensive at the Canberra meeting, saying the Victorian Government was to blame.
“We’re trying to help people with cash payments,” Joyce told the media.
“I’ve only got one loan out because the state government is responsible for putting the loans out, not the Federal Government.
“That’s one of the things I’m trying to deal with … trying to facilitate these things in a more expedient way.”
Murray Goulburn chairman Philip Tracy defended the company’s decision to reduce last season’s farmgate milk price, and said the company supported Joyce’s calls to establish a Commodity Milk Price Index.
“MG’s pricing mechanism has worked effectively for many decades and through many industry cycles, but we do believe there is scope to improve the transparency of pricing for Australian dairy farmers,” Tracy said.
Prime Minister Turnbull said he joined “all Australians” in being very concerned about events in the milk industry.
“It is vital that we maintain a strong dairy industry in Australia,” he said, “a strong, successful, profitable dairy industry in Australia.”