Murray Goulburn’s pledge to rebuild

May 05, 2017

Murray Goulburn’s’ (MG) announcement on Tuesday was significant for the industry.

In their statement, MG said it would shut down its Rochester and Kiewa factories in Victoria and the Edith Creek factory in Tasmania; and ‘forgive’ the MSSP or milk cheque clawback from farmers.

We welcome MG’s announcement to scrap the MSSP which, will bring very important financial relief to affected farmers. We believe this will be a step forward in rebuilding trust and confidence between farmers and the processor.

Let’s hope Fonterra quickly follows suit as it did last year and reverses their cuts to farmers in 2016.

We also need to acknowledge that the factory closures will cause a significant amount of distress to the employees, dairy farmers who supply the factories and affected communities. This is never easy and these types of transitions are difficult for everyone affected.

MG has said the plant closures are necessary to keep the Co-op sustainable and will initially cost $99m but should get a net benefit from the closures of $15m from 2018 financial year. MG said about 360 jobs will be lost in the plant closures, which will cut costs by $40-60m over the next 18 months.

ADF recognises that these actions are designed to improve the strength of the company and ensure suppliers remain with the Co-op.

The announcement by MG has really highlighted how important a competitive and strong Co-op is for the dairy industry and we have genuine confidence that things will change for the better.

John McQueen

Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer

 

Where to from here - the 457 visa

Apr 21, 2017

Dairy is a highly dynamic industry offering lots of opportunities for career growth and development. However, it is no secret that we have domestic labour shortages in regional and rural areas.

Our preference is always to hire Australian workers, but there are not always enough experienced farmhands to meet the demand of our industry. This is despite more than a decade of offering training courses and pathway programs for Australian workers to enter the dairy industry.

ADF has continued to lobby the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) for regulation amendments to visas allowing overseas workers to fill vital on-farm and off-farm roles.

This week, the Government announced that the 457 Temporary Work visa will be abolished and replaced with the completely new Temporary Skill Shortage visa by March 2018. ADF is concerned with the changes and is seeking clarification on many aspects from the DIPB.

We have now been advised that the current visa changes will have no impact on the Dairy Industry Labour Agreement, which allows dairy farmers to recruit senior farm hands. We have been assured that:

  • our existing labour agreements remaining in effect;
  • our existing visa holders not impacted unless they apply for another visa impacted by the changes outside of the labour agreement programme; or
  • new nominations that we intend to lodge/related visa applications are not impacted – including applications for occupations which have been ‘removed’ from the standard programme or are now subject to a caveat in the standard programme but remain specified in our agreement.

We also understand that under these changes, which come into effect immediately:

  • dairy cattle farmers are included on the short-term skilled occupation list and only able to apply for a 2-year visa;
  • 2-year visas can only be renewed once, which will lead to an increase in administrative burden and red tape on farmers looking to access these new visas;
  • dairy, like other agricultural commodities is not included on the medium to long term strategic skilled occupation list to access 4-year visas; and
  • changes have been made to the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa and to the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) visa.

We are still in the process of gaining clarification on what will happen to current visa applicants who are waiting on approvals and the additional occupations available to support regional employers. 

ADF supports the employment of overseas workers to fill vital on-farm roles. We will continue to liaise with government to ensure dairy farmers that need to employ overseas staff can do so.

John McQueen

Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer

 

ACCC now targeting Unfair Contracts

Apr 07, 2017

The new unfair contract terms law is a priority for the ACCC in 2017. It will ensure small businesses, including those which are farms, receive the right type of protection.

We have been advised that the ACCC will be taking enforcement action against a number of companies across a range of industries over business-to-business unfair contract terms this year.

For the past six months, ADF together with State Member Dairy Organisations and Processor Members of the ADPF have been working on the Code of Practice for contractual agreements between farmers and processors. The development of this code is instrumental in protecting dairy farmers from unfair clauses and protecting our processors from incurring millions of dollars in fines. Now with full industry support, the Code of Practice is due to be finalised shortly.

The ACCC has reinforced the importance that if you operate a small business, you may be required to enter into standard form contracts with other businesses for goods and services. All dairy farmers should check the contracts they have with suppliers of inputs, like grain, to ensure they conform to the new legislation. The Australian Consumer Law now prohibits unfair terms in most of these contracts.

In their communications, the ACCC stated that it was no secret that traders (typically larger businesses) put potentially unfair clauses in their agreements, such as terms that give them:

  • an unreasonable ability to cancel or terminate an agreement
  • broad and potentially unreasonable powers to protect themselves against loss or damage
  • the ability to unilaterally change the terms of the contract
  • unilateral discretion to reject or downgrade produce
  • an unreasonable ability to limit or prevent small businesses from exiting their contracts. 

To be 'unfair', a term must:

  • cause a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations
  • not be reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate interests of the party advantaged by the term, and
  • cause financial or other detriment (such as delay) to a small business if it were relied on. 

If you come across terms in a standard form contract you have been offered or you have entered into, and which you think may be unfair, you can report it to the ACCC Infocentre

For more information, including the definition of a small business and the meaning of 'unfair' contract terms, please see the ACCC website

John McQueen

Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer

 

Making the most of Canberra

Mar 31, 2017

On Wednesday, Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) were in Canberra to discuss a range of issues with Ministers and Members of Parliament.

Throughout the day, ADF had the opportunity to discuss what is working well within the industry and to discuss what else needs to be done.

Our advocacy and policy work is at the heart of everything we do and is essential to ensuring Australian dairy remains competitive and well aligned for growth.

These meetings give us the opportunity to pursue important industry policy priorities and to reaffirm relationships with Ministers.

The main issues discussed included:

  • The progress on the draft Code of Practice;
  • The impact of technical barriers to trade (TBT) on the Australian dairy industry’s international trading opportunities;
  • Access to overseas workers to fill our workforce labour gaps;
  • Pathways to permanent residency for New Zealand born dairy farmers; and
  • Reiterating our support for the Effects Test currently before Federal Parliament. 

ADF continues to advocate for policies which will support the industry and we will continue to seek Government support to help drive innovation, which increases productivity and profitability.

We’re committed to ensuring the voice of the dairy is heard by highlighting the issues to Government and working with them on important reforms.

John McQueen

Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer


 

 

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