My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Agriculture.
The action that I seek from the minister is that she meet with federal government representatives to plead for the dairy concessional loans to be more broadly extended to include dairy farmers whose short-term viability is now affected by the recently announced milk prices, which are below the cost of production, as well as to the associated business community.
Today Barnaby Joyce announced that if the coalition is re-elected he will establish a regional investment corporation to fast-track the delivery of loan schemes, highlighting the delays in the dairy concessional loans as a reason. It is disappointing that there has been a level of political conflict in the rolling out of these loans. While there is no doubt Murray Goulburn and Fonterra suppliers are the ones that are the most greatly affected, there is an enormous flow-on effect to others in our community.
I attended two forums last week convened by the Minister for Agriculture, one with representatives from local councils and the other with members of the business community who are impacted by the current pricing crisis affecting the dairy industry. Councils held concerns for their ability to attract and retain young farmers in the region: what security could they give them to invest in the district? Business owners spoke about worry for their own futures; they also held grave concerns for their local farmers, who are not just customers but often friends — such is the height of community concern for those in the industry.
There is no doubt that there are many in the rural business community who are already feeling the financial stress as a result of the dairy crisis and others who are bracing for the economic downturn. These people range from those in the transport and stockfeed industry to veterinarians and our talented exporters who have already stopped sending product globally as a result of the oversupply of milk overseas.
These business owners were realistic about the expectations. In the immediate and medium-term future they expect jobs will be cut, and they will be cut soon, something our communities cannot afford. The milk prices are slowly being announced to the community, but they are all coming in lower than the price of production. I urge both the state and federal governments to extend their reach, particularly in relation to the dairy concessional loans, to those businesses associated with the dairy industry to ensure no-one slips through the cracks in this time of crisis.