Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 07/02/2001, pg. 8

DAIRY deregulation today will become a state election issue as farmers carry a coffin symbolising the death of the dairy industry in a march from the Showgrounds to Roma Street and then to Parliament House.

Australian Milk Producers Association state president Shane Paulger yesterday said the major parties had failed the industry.

“We are asking consumers to support us by voting for independents and putting the major parties at the bottom of the list in the election,” he said.

Re-regulation was the only way to save the industry and rural communities, he said.

“We need legislation in the month after the election to be in time to save our farmers from going broke,” he said.

Queensland Dairy Organisation CEO Mick Prendergast said the Trade Practices Act needed to be re-written because it disadvantaged rural industries.

He said a political campaign was needed by rural industries to force changes to help the thousands of producers who were powerless against the few powerful buyers of their commodities.

He said although the QDO was not joining the rally, many of its members would be there and he hoped politicians would listen to them.

In a media stunt yesterday to push dairy farmers’ cause, the Gamble family poured 1000 litres of milk from their Darling Downs dairy down the drain.

Noel and Denise Gamble volunteered to tip out the milk as a protest against deregulation of the industry which has seen many of their neighbours go broke.

Deregulation also may cost them their livelihood and take away their sons’ futures on the farm and the jobs of their two employees.

Faced with television cameras, Denise Gamble tried to put on a brave face as the foam-topped puddle of milk swirled down the drain. But several times she faltered, giving in to the fear

that maybe no one cared about their plight.

“It’s a very sad day. I never thought it would come to this,”

she said. “If we have to go out of dairying after all these years, we’ll go out fighting.”

Third-generation dairy farmer Noel Gamble said interest subsidies and the Government’s restructure package would not save the industry.

“We don’t want handouts. We need a fair price for our milk,” he said.

State Primary Industries Minister Henry Palaszczuk has asked the ACCC to investigate if processors were profiteering from deregulation.

Farmers had taken a 23 cut in milk prices but consumers were saving only 3 a litre, he said.

Mr Palaszczuk said dairy farmers had received lower prices for seven months, but 600 had still not received their federal restructure package.

Copyright 2001 / Courier Mail