The much-debated and much-anticipated Mandatory Code of Conduct for the Dairy Industry was released by the federal government on Friday. After the release of the exposure draft a few weeks ago, there was concern as to whether the final code would be effective in protecting farmers from unfair contract terms and whether it would be able to help restore the balance of power within the value chain.
We were particularly concerned with the clauses that related to multi-year contracts and exclusivity. We also wanted to ensure that any contract started before January 2020 be forced to be compliant with the code within 12 months.
Fortunately for the industry, those responsible for drafting the Dairy Code have been thorough. We met with Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie and several staffers a number of times over the past month. The process has ensured that the issues relevant to the various dairying regions and the contractual variations were addressed accordingly.
We can say with confidence that the code as it stands has addressed most of the issues raised by QDO and that's a great win for our members.
Throughout the next 12 months, the Dairy Consultative Committee will meet to review how the code is working between parties in the industry. Ms McKenzie has assured the industry that there will be a one-year review of the code at which time the multi-year contract issue, which still needs more investigation, will be resolved.
Retailers have not been included in the code. However, Ms McKenzie has given QDO an assurance that once the code has been finalised she will turn her attention to sorting out the dairy retail sector. We look forward to working with the minister to put this issue to bed once and for all.