January 22, 2020
Opposition Leader and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington has rejected claims she wants to take away business from South Burnett dairy farmers with her campaign to support Maleny Dairies.
A two-year Queensland Health contract to supply dairy products to the Metro North Health Service was awarded recently to French-owned Lactalis Australia and Lion Dairy, a subsidiary of Mengniu Dairy of China.
The bulk of the contract went to Lactalis, the largest milk processer in Queensland, with less than 3 per cent filled by Lion Dairy, described by the State Government as supplying “a niche product” used in some patients’ diets.
The decision angered Maleny Dairies owner Ross Hopper who accused the State Government of ignoring its “Buy Queensland” procurement policy.
“Maleny Dairies was strongly encouraged to tender for this work even when we communicated we couldn’t compete on price,” an official statement from the company read.
“Maleny Dairies farmers needed that contract and so did we. Local farmers will struggle to stay in business.
“If the Queensland Government hadn’t used us all year to go to events supporting their campaigns about buying local we wouldn’t have even tendered.
“We told the government if it was about price then we can’t compete. We were encouraged not to worry about price and put the tender as being a 100 per cent Queensland company was now very important. Putting that tender in was very expensive.”
On Wednesday, Mrs Frecklington launched a petition calling on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to reverse the decision to “snub” Maleny Dairies.
“Maleny Dairies is proudly Queensland, but they’ve been utterly betrayed by Labor,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“This petition will send a strong message to Annastacia Palaszczuk that Queenslanders won’t tolerate being pushed aside for overseas companies.
“We need 10,000 signatures by February 3 to get this debated by the Parliament.
“It is important that this gets debated on the floor because Queenslanders are outraged by the decision.”
But Health Minister Steven Miles rebuked Mrs Frecklington, saying the government did support local producers.
He said Lactalis Australia owned Pauls which was based in Brisbane.
“Pauls has been a Queensland-based company from the very beginning when they opened their first milk factory on the banks of the Brisbane River back in the 1930s,” Mr Miles said.
“This contract will see Pauls buy milk from over 140 Queensland dairy farmers. Every single one of them family-owned and operated.
“These are family-owned dairies in (the) Darling Downs, Lockyer Valley, Wide Bay, South Burnett, Central Queensland and the Atherton Tableland.
“I’d like to know which of these 140 Queensland farmers Deb Frecklington would take business from? Would she take business from dairy farmers in her own electorate?”
Minister Miles said Pauls employed more then 700 Queenslanders.
He repeated that Maleny Dairies could not supply the volume needed for the Metro North dairy contract and, more importantly, could not supply all the products to meet the dietary requirements of patients.
Mrs Frecklington responded by saying Labor was “twisting the issue to suit their spin”.
“Firstly, they have said the reason Maleny Dairies didn’t win the contract was because they couldn’t supply the volume required,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“This is incorrect. Maleny Dairies have publicly stated that the whole of the tender represented no more than an extra 5 per cent more business to their business. They believe they could have provided this volume ‘in their sleep’.
“No matter how Labor spins it, this issue is about the Labor Government not living up to their own ‘Buy Local’ policy.
“This is not about supporting one dairy farmer over the other. This is about the Labor State Government not being honest with Queenslanders about the ‘Buy Local’ policy.”
Maleny Dairies has described State Government claims it could not fulfil the contract as “hogwash”.
It said it could supplied all the Full Cream and Low Fat Milk in the contract as well as a lot of the custard and yoghurt. Cheese would have been outsourced to local companies.
“The tender openly referred to welcoming new products, different sizes and sourcing from other suppliers if you couldn’t supply. We wouldn’t have tendered if it was a one-stop shop,” a statement from Maleny Dairies said.