Secret meeting the ultimate irony in quest for transparency and trust


Barnaby Joyce and Malcolm Turnbull meeting MG. Pic credit: The Guardian Australia

Tomorrow, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce will bring the cream of the dairy community – from retailers and processors through to farmers – together in a symposium to discuss our futures.

It’s acknowledged there is much work to do in order to rebuild trust. One of the measures widely touted – including by Murray Goulburn itself after an earlier chastening at the hands of Minister Joyce and PM Turnbull – has been increased transparency.

Yet tomorrow’s meeting will be:

  • attended by a list of so-far-unknown representatives on an invitation-only basis and;
  • their discussion will be conducted in secret.

No wonder many average dairy farmers outside the inner circle feel excluded and frustrated.

I take my hat off to Barnaby for dragging all the parties together. But this pivotal meeting needs to be an open and honest discussion of what can be done to renew the confidence of Australian dairy farmers in our futures. And if there’s a bully in the room who demanded the doors be closed, it’s time that bully was called out.

Nobody in the Australian dairy supply chain has the right to hold the rest of us to ransom any more. The high moral ground has been well and truly lost.

There are fears that the dairy symposium will be yet another talk-fest over tea and cucumber sandwiches that achieves little other than the fulfillment of a political promise. I’m hoping it will be so much more. If Barnaby Joyce can hold Johnny Depp to account, anything is possible.


Thank you very much to the Deputy PM’s office for providing this information:

The symposium will be held in Melbourne tomorrow. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Dairy Australia and the ACCC’s agriculture commissioner, Mick Keogh will all address the symposium, to be chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

A spokeswoman for the Deputy Prime Minister said:

“We have invited key stakeholders from farmer organisations, processors and retailers to a dairy symposium to facilitate industry-led options to address the challenges facing the Australian dairy industry and discuss ways to improve the industry’s prospects going forward.

“The agenda will cover a number of topics including the outlook for the Australian dairy industry and options for improving milk price transparency, strengthening bargaining and restoring industry confidence.

 “The symposium is an opportunity to facilitate an industry-led discussion to better manage risk along the dairy supply chain, including managing the effects of world dairy prices.”

Thanks again to the Deputy PM’s office for a list of RSVPs:

Farmer representative bodies
Australian Dairy Farmers
NSW Farmers
Dairy Connect
Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation
South Australian Dairyfarmers’ Association
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association
United Dairy Farmers of Victoria
Western Australia Farmers
National Farmers’ Federation
ACE Farming Company
Farmer, Willow Grove Gippsland
Farmer, Trafalgar Gippsland
Leppington Pastoral Company
Dairy Farmers Milk Co-operative
Farmer, QLD
Farmer, WA
Farmer, VIC
Farmer, VIC
Farmer, VIC
Farmer, QLD

Australian Dairy Products Federation
Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC)
Murray Goulburn
Bonlac Supplier Group
Burra Foods
Premium Milk
Richmond Dairies


Dairy Australia
Macalister Irrigation District Customer Consultative Committee
KAP President
Sinclair Wilson Accountants Warrnambool
Manning Valley Fresh Group, Taree Collective Bargaining Group NSW
Freedom Foods

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources
Assistant Minister for Rural Health, Federal Member for Lyne
Federal Member for Forrest
Federal Member for Wannon
Senator for Victoria
Victorian Minister for Agriculture
Leader of the Nationals Victoria, Victorian Shadow Minister for Agriculture
Deputy Prime Minister’s Agriculture Industry Advisory Council

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Dairy Food Safety Victoria
Murray Darling Basin Authority
Campaspie Shire Council
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Department of Economic, Jobs, Transport and Resources


17 thoughts on “Secret meeting the ultimate irony in quest for transparency and trust

  1. Nothing will be achieved as the views of the dairy farmer participants do not represent the views of the majority of dairy farmeres. Why wasn’t Farmer Power representatives allowed to attend the meeting? Again the excuse by government is that the UDV is the representative group rather it is the group that best suits the government and it can be controlled. It should be an open meeting as the decisions (if any) will impact on all dairy farmers. Having a closed meeting could indicate that there is something to hide!


  2. Hi Marian. I was amazed when I was told the media was excluded too. The only opportunity is an outside “doorstop” with Barnaby. Barnaby’s office said this was not what they had wanted – they assumed it was an open forum – but that certain key processors would not attend if media was present. cheers Sue Neales


  3. As dairy farmers, we agree that this symposium should have been open and transparent. At the same time, one farmer who will be there, will definitely be presenting the views of farmers in our state. The UDV president, Adam Jenkins has been actively seeking input from farmers far and wide. So let’s not throw mud in the wrong direction. The processors who requested this be a closed event are those that deserve our scorn, and the politicians who were too spineless to stand up to them. Karrinjeet and Brian


    • Hi Karrinjeet and Brian,
      I’m certainly not throwing mud at Adam Jenkins! He is working very hard for farmers but faces an almighty job making his voice heard in a closed meeting with the processors and retailers tomorrow.


      • Didn’t see any mud in your script, just clean sharp points. Good to read your understanding of Adam’s critical yet daunting task as our selected representative in this matter. It would be reasonable that the minister’s office allow him a few off-siders to better present our position. Otherwise, he is well prepared and up to it. Closed meeting means less likely to turn into a bun fight BUT, we deserve to know what is discussed and what is decided; it is not commercially sensitive and we are stakeholders. B


  4. I agree with you Marian.
    This symposium highlights the contempt that the government has towards the farmers and communities affected.


  5. Marian,
    You mentioned MG in your blog. Why not the Fonterra, Burra Foods and the rest? MG might have done the wrong thing to its suppliers but the others did not try and fix any thing. They are all as bad and follow one another like sheep!


  6. Clearly any farmers invited would be invited by the dairy representative groups like UDV etc, as Barnaby Joyce wouldn’t know a dairyfarmer from a horse trainer. There lies the problem, most of the dairy representatives are so closely aligned to such bodies like DA and wouldn’t want farmers there that might kick up an opposition view. I do believe Barnaby is trying to get this sorted out, but the farmers he is being guided to, are the ones that aren’t hurting or have close affiliation with such dairy bodies. Love your work and blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well done to get the RSVP list and be able to publish it. It is an interesting mix of people and parties for the inquiry, now it will be interesting to see how they break it down and group them to together to work through the detail of each of the agenda items. Certainly it gives the media folk some idea as to whom to go to for further information unless the blanket of confidentiality is applied.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Will definitely contact our accounting firm then. Noticed there are NO dairy farmers names? Would like to no who they were. As its exremely important to know who represents our ‘boots on the ground 24/7’. ???


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