Producers will get walked over, Joyce

National Senator Barnaby Joyce has called for a legislated code of conduct by warning that farmers would ‘get walked over’ should the code be voluntary.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), Coles and Woolworths have been in negotiations for a voluntary code over the past eight months and are in the final stages of drafting according to the Financial Review.

The code is designed to regulate alleged bullying behaviour from the major retailers, however the departure of the National Farmers Federation from negotiations in April sighting that a mandatory code would provide tougher protection for farmers, has created questions surrounding the validity and effectiveness of a voluntary code.

“My argument is if you believe you can abide by a code of conduct, why would you have a problem with it being mandatory?” Said Joyce.

“If we believe in a principle of fairness, and believe government is there to bring about fairness, then to say we will let the farmer determine his livelihood against Coles and Woolworths, that’s an absurdity.”

Whether mandatory of voluntary, if a code cannot be agreed between the parties or government before August, than the matter will most likely be on hold until after the election.

"I know absolutely that Coles and Woolworths will be frenetically lobbying people [in Canberra] to make sure no mandatory code of conduct will be brought in," said Joyce.

"We will try and bring about an agenda that brings a better outcome for farmers, knowing that we have very few friends. And even the ones who say they will stand up for farmers, such as Mr Windsor (Independent Member for New England), are nowhere to be seen on these issues.”

Nationals Senator John Williams believes that the Coalition will be able to work through the issues, and agrees with opposition small business spokesman, Bruce Billson who has said that fines will need to be imposed as a deterrent against non-compliance.

"You can set out a basic set of principles, for instance if you sign a contract, you must abide by that contract. If you breach it, then you face the adjudicator, who can impose a fine,” said Williams.

CEO of the AFGC Gary Dawson is continuing to support a voluntary code of conduct by stating that the code would be just as effective as a mandatory policy as it would still be enforceable by the ACCC.

“Whether an industry code is mandatory or voluntary, the key issue is that it must be effective without simply adding unnecessary compliance costs on suppliers.”


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