The Senate in Canberra twice discussed the difficulties of Shepparton Valley orchardists and the region’s processed food industries on Thursday, courtesy of Victorian Nationals Senator, Bridget McKenzie
“Getting the Federal Parliament to not only pay attention to this critical issue for regional Victoria but also vote in support of our Toss a Tin in Your Trolley campaign was a great start, but I was disappointed the Minister had no helpful answers for the community when I quizzed him in Question Time,” Senator McKenzie said.
Shortly after noon, the Senate passed without dissent Ms McKenzie’s motion recognising the plight of the growers and processors around Shepparton and beyond, and supporting the community campaign encouraging families to “toss a tin” of Australian fruit in their shopping trolley to help local farmers and jobs.
Later Senator McKenzie explained to Agriculture Minister, Senator Joe Ludwig, the consequences of the industry’s troubles, with more than 1200 horticulture processing jobs lost, 11 processors closing and now Goulburn Valley’s largest processor SPC Ardmona cutting back production by half.
But when Senator McKenzie asked the Minister what he was actually going to do about the problem, he blamed the high Aussie dollar, suggested farmers who couldn’t sell their fruit should go further into debt and that the issue of tariffs on imported fruit was not an issue for his bureaucracy.
“I then asked the Minister about the major biosecurity risk that could well result from fallow orchards. This time he blamed the Victorian State Government,” Senator McKenzie said.
“It seems that when the car industry gets a sniffle, the Gillard Government comes rushing with hundreds of millions of dollars, but when the fruit processing industry is in crisis, all we get from Gillard Labor is the blame game.”.
Media contact: Kathleen Tonini 0400530027