Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has dismissed a Liberal backbencher’s suggestion that a sugar tax should be considered as a means to tackle child obesity.
As the Australian reports, on Monday Victorian MP Russell Broadbent told Parliament a 20 per cent tax on all manufacturers and importers of soft drinks would provide the Government with much needed funds to fight the increased incidence of obesity among children.
However, Joyce (pictured) ruled the proposal of hand, saying such a move would devastate the sugar industry.
“We believe that the sugar industry is an incredibly strong industry, especially for the development of north Queensland,” he said
“I’m always reticent to believe that a tax is a cure for anything.”
As the AFR reports, Nationals MP for Capricornia in North Queensland Michelle Landry, agreed with Joyce and claimed a sugar tax would leave many workers from her electorate, which has two sugar mills, out of work.
However, Landry added that food makers could be put under more scrutiny regarding the amount of sugar they use.
“These manufacturers when they make food they do put a lot of sugar into things, and perhaps they should start being more careful about what ingredients they’ll put into things because there’s a lot of sugar,” she said.
Coffee company Industry Beans has been awarded a Victorian government grant of $225,000 under a program aimed at creating jobs for former auto industry workers.
According to a statement from premier Daniel Andrews, the money will be used to assist the firm upgrade its 760 square metre facility at Brunswick, invest in new machinery to boost output, and increase its export revenues by $20 million annually. Industry Beans will also create a “revolutionary e-commerce platform”.
“We know Melbourne’s north will be one of the communities hardest hit, this funding will help bring in new investment and new jobs for former auto workers in the area,” said state employment minister Wade Noonan.
The grants come out of the $33 million Local Industry Fund for Transition. To qualify, businesses must pay for at least 75 per cent of a proposed upgrade out of their own money, and had to “maximise the number of retrenched automotive workers that will transition to their project prior to submitting applications”.
According to the statement, 20 new jobs will be created, with 16 of these for retrenched auto industry workers.
Independent senator Jacqui Lambie has called for a Senate Inquiry into the dairy industry, claiming this is the best way to uncover illegal activity in the sector.
As News.com.au reports, Lambie told parliament on Tuesday that the investigation being carried out by the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was a “sly way of covering up wrongdoings” in the industry.
The ACCC inquiry, announced by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce last week, follows the April decisions of the two major dairy processors, Murray Goulburn and Fonterra, to retrospectively cut the price it pays suppliers for milk. As a result, most dairy farmers involved are in a perilous financial position and many don’t expect to survive.
South Australian senator Nick Xenophon has suggested laws to protect Australian terms used by Australian manufacturers, following US company Deckers suing manufacturer Australian Leather.
“This is a battle worth having. If the French can protect the use of the word champagne, the Greeks the use of the word feta, then surely Australia can protect the use of the word Ugg for Australian manufacturers,” he told the ABC.
The comment came following the attempt by Deckers to sue western Sydney company Australian Leather over the word Ugg. Deckers reportedly sells an approximate $1 billion of Ugg boots annually.
Australian entrepreneur Brian Smith made an application at the US Patent Office in 1985 for the term, and lately sold the trademark to Deckers. It has sued two other Australian companies for the use of “Ugg”.
In a counter-lawsuit, the lawyer for Eddie Oygur of Australian Leather is using evidence such as surfing magazines going back to 1970 to contend the term was already a generic Australian one, well before any patent.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce chaired a symposium involving dairy farmers, processors and retailers in Melbourne today and again committed the Government to establishing a commodity milk price index.
Joyce said in a statement the index will cost up to $2 million to implement and that the meeting allowed stakeholders to express their views on its introduction.
The symposium comes in the decisions of major dairy processors, Murray Goulburn (MG) and Fonterra to retrospectively cut farmgate milk prices in April. As a result of the cuts, MG suppliers now owe the company an average of about $100,000 each.
“Recent events have shown there is a need for the industry to better balance risk along the dairy supply chain, especially when it comes to managing the effects of lower world prices,” Joyce said in a statement.
“Ultimately, I want to see improved farm gate returns for dairy farmers, an openness in milk price arrangements and fair and transparent milk supply contracts.
“This can only happen if there is buy-in from industry and a willingness from key stakeholders to hear each other out and develop solutions together.
Joyce also reiterated that the Government is assisting dairy farmers through its $579 million support package.
A recent consultation recommended an extension of industry regulation in some areas of marketing activity to children, but TV advertising lay outside its remit. Should the government have taken the opportunity to address TV advertising by more direct intervention?
Of the many commercial communications children are exposed to, pre-9pm family TV programming (think Britain’s Got Talent or The X Factor) provides an easier target for legislation. Marketing communications, for better or worse, influence what we eat. Their effects depend, however, on whether their message really gets through to consumers in a media saturated society.
Organisations understand that even the best advertising plans are beset by “noise”. That is, we are surrounded by message clutter – and often messages conflict or compete. It is hard to get your message to stand out, to create buzz and prompt the audience into acting on it. All the more so where healthy messages are outspent by less healthy messages.
But ad campaigns that are properly thought through, integrated and well supported can lift sales of healthier foods. Aldi has done just that through its sponsorship of Team GB, linked to television, in-store, digital, school and press activity around the theme of “home-grown heroes”. Much of the campaign had a fruity (and vegetable) theme and, according to a report in The Grocer – unfortunately behind a paywall – Aldi boosted its produce sales by 20%. It is a noteworthy, if discrete, instance of a healthier message breaking through – and a chink of light, perhaps, given declining fruit and veg sales despite consistent long-standing delivery of the five-a-day message.
Collectively, studies show a moderate direct impact of adverts on children’s consumption of unhealthy foods. But recent research demonstrates that children feel a strong pull towards junk food advertising. Children aged eight to 12 describe junk food advertising as “tempting” and “addictive”. The picture emerges of children who know the food being sold to them on television is bad, but they still find them very seductive. This conundrum suggests less immediate and direct effect of advertising that are nevertheless more insidious and long-term.
Consumer researchers recognise the cultural role of adverts. Children are active users of advertising, reproducing their messages even in everyday play. So adverts play a role in forming our understanding of the world. And that often means understanding “bad” food as a reward, an indulgence or naughty but deserved pleasure.
Bad food isn’t fun
There is no better arena than prime time family TV for resource-rich corporations to promote an insidious message that “bad” food is “good” when it is a treat, or part of a balanced diet, a deserved indulgence, fun. These are generalised associations, with the less helpful aspects of our diet linked to an indulgent time period in the family week. Breaking this link would represent a modest step towards cultural change.
Meanwhile, the food industry has reacted in divergent ways to the childhood obesity plan. Sainsbury’s has been particularly vocal among retailers to regret its lack of legal teeth, particularly with respect to promotions and advertising – it wants more regulation to provide a level playing field. Soft drink companies are among those who feel unduly singled out. So, within a divided industry, what might additional TV regulation do?
First, we should not underestimate the voluntary steps taken towards a healthier future among food and drink manufacturers and retailers. These steps include “guiltless” checkout aisles in supermarkets – which don’t push sweets at children and their mothers. But there has also been widespread reformulation of products to remove sugar, alteration of key product ranges and additional food labelling.
Such steps are often achieved quietly and have been guardedly welcomed by health campaigners – mixed with a degree of scepticism. True, companies are acting in their own commercial interests. But in positioning themselves for commercial success in a possibly more healthy future society, industry players are important in bringing that future into being.
So, there are causes for optimism but – again – these need to punch through competition and message noise. The childhood obesity plan provided an opportunity to prevent organisations across the board from “doing the wrong thing”. An extension of the advertising ban until 9pm would have been a limited and well-defined step in clearing the path towards changing our culture’s relationship with food. It would also have forced the industry to focus on its better foods and wean itself off the bad habit of pushing junk food to children.
The importance of the food industry to Australia’s economic future is being recognised in the grant space, with a number of grant opportunities at both the Federal and State level on offer.
Government’s continue to offer grants and programs supporting sustainability and renewable energy initiatives as well as export development, and businesses in the food and agriculture sectors are well placed to benefit from them.
In South Australia, the Advanced Food Manufacturing Grant Program is currently open, with EOI’s closing later this month. Grants up to $100,000 are available for co-funded projects from South Australian food and beverage manufacturers (excluding wine) and public or private research technology providers that strengthen the food industry’s innovation capabilities and improve productivity, profitability and competitiveness.
With automation and data analytics key to the future success of the food industry, South Australia’s Manufacturing Technologies Program and Big Data Connect Program can provide the catalyst for businesses to leapfrog in this area with grants on offer to businesses looking to evaluate, assess, trial and adopt new technologies.
In Victoria, the state’s Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund has a number of programs where food and agri-food can benefit. Under the Innovation and Productivity stream, food and fibre is a designated emerging sector which draws preference for assistance with new technology and infrastructure projects that improve the efficiency and competitiveness of regional businesses.
New technologies and processes are also supported under Victoria’s Future Industries Manufacturing Program with grants of up to $500,000 available.
On a national level, the RIRDC’s research funding program opens next month which can support research programs in a number of industries including Chicken Meat and Honey Bee and Pollination.
Myriad grant opportunities are on offer or upcoming (open but not yet accepting applications) for businesses. If your food business is considering or exploring opportunities, new processes or technologies or moving premises, would possible financial assistance be an enabler?
The South Australian government has announced a grant scheme, offering SMEs in the state – which has the country’s worst unemployment rate – $10,000 per each job created.
The Australian Financial Review and others report that the program announced in yesterday’s state budget applies to companies with a wage bill less than $5 million. The hires must last at least two years to be eligible.
“This is not available to Coles and Woolworths and BHP, this is for the small-to-medium-sized enterprises, the engine room of the South Australian economy, and lately it’s been spluttering a little bit,” said treasurer Tom Koutsantonis. SA’s SMEs number about 140,000.
According to the budget announcement, the “job accelerator grants” are uncapped for the number of new hires.
Companies with payroll bills totalling less than $600,000 annually are also eligible for a $4,000 grant per two-year hire under the scheme.
“Our unemployment rate which I think every South Australian would agree is unacceptably high given what we have to consume with the loss of Holden, which was forced upon us — we didn’t ask for it,” said the treasurer.
The Refrigerated Warehouse & Transport Association of Australia (RWTA) has called on the Victorian Government to explain why it encouraged a business with a history of serial insolvency in Europe to enter the local market.
An investigation by the international Forensic and Risk Services company PKF has revealed NewCold’s European Directors have a history of insolvency associated with failed companies in the same industry.
RWTA Chairman David O’Brien called on the Victorian Government to disclose any subsidies or financial assistance offered to NewCold’s establishment in Victoria, and to explain what due diligence has taken place.
“Our own investigation found both of NewCold’s foreign Directors have been directors of companies that have gone into liquidation in the UK. How have they proved financial viability when there is a history of serial insolvency in Europe?” Mr O’Brien asked.
“This should have raised the alarm for any Australian business or Government considering entering a commercial relationship with this firm,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said he was extremely concerned that if NewCold decided to buy market share by price gouging, this would lead to job losses by destroying local players.
“The Premier needs to explain what data he relied upon to support his promise of the creation of 127 jobs in a business which is highly automated.”
The Australian cold storage industry is estimated to be worth about $6 billion, and is forecast to continue growing at around 2.5 per cent per annum.
A group of three West Gippsland dairy farmers may bypass the major dairy processors and sell milk directly to a Melbourne yoghurt and cheese maker.
The ABC reports that Picnic Dairy Foods Managing Director Ibrahim Ozdemir met with farmers, Andrew Russell, Trevor Mills and Michael Perry at a property in Longwarry North on Monday and outlined the proposal.
The company currently uses about 80,000 litres of milk a week which it buys from a milk trader.
Ozdemir said he wants to pay the farmers about $6 per kilogram milk solids, which is significantly more than the $4.75 and $5 per kilogram they currently get from Fonterra.
Fonterra and the other major processor Murray Goulburn recently slashed their farmgate prices without warning and left suppliers in a difficult financial position.
“As a company our philosophy has been to support farmers and pay them prices they deserve,” Ozdemir told the ABC, adding that the big processors had given them “an unfair deal”.
Mills said he liked the proposal Picnic Dairy Foods is offering. “I’ve got no ties to Fonterra at all,” he said.
“I’ve given them my loyalty for 20 years and as far as I’m concerned they’ve lost my loyalty now.”
Meanwhile, as the ABC reports, the Victorian Government is considering offering council rates relief to dairy farmers who are coping with the low milk price.
Campaspe Mayor Leigh Wilson wrote to Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford and suggested the measure. He pointed out that similar measures have been taken in the past to assist farmers during times of drought.
“It should never have come to this; $1-a-litre milk price is not sustainable; you are all collateral damage in a five-year war between Coles and Woolworths,” he told a rally of dairy farmers in Melbourne yesterday.
“If we have to have an emergency levy put on milk, so be it.”
“If you put in a floor price, if that’s the Greens policy, I can understand the empathy behind that, but what happens is you end up with massive stockpiles of a product that you can’t move and the thing ends up collapsing and that itself creates a crisis,” he told ABC.
The Federal Government has announced a half-billion-dollar assistance package including concessional loans to dairy farmers dealing with the collapse of farmgate milk prices.
Murray Goulburn recently cut its price from $5.65 to between $4.75-$5.00 kgMS, while the other major dairy processor Fonterra cut its price from $5.60 per kgMS to $5.00 per kgMS. As a result, many dairy farmers are expected to leave the industry.
As the ABC reports, the assistance package announced yesterday by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce (pictured) includes $55 million worth of concessional loans this year and $500 million in concessional loans over 2016-17 and 2017-18.
“The concessional loans will go as low as 2.66 per cent. They’re currently at 2.71 per cent.” Joyce said.
“Farmers will be able to borrow $1 million or half of what they owe, whichever is the lesser, so that they can assist themselves to get through this crisis.”
The package, which received bi-partisan support from shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon, also included increased access to financial counselling services.
As News.com.au reports Joyce also announced that, if re-elected, the government would establish a commodity milk price index to provide the industry and producers with a better idea of expected global and local milk price fluctuations.
“The Coalition will consult with the industry on the design of the index that would provide dairy farmers with valuable information for use in supply negotiations with processors and to assist in following international price trends,” Joyce said.
Meanwhile, as AAP reports, dairy farmers are rallying in Melbourne this morning to highlight their plight. They plan to gather in Federation Square and march to Parliament House.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has said he will urge retailers and dairy processors to increase what they pay dairy farmers for milk.
Joyce told Channel Nine yesterday he would phone the relevant parties in an effort to resolve the problem.
“[It’s] an anathema, I think it’s incredibly wrong that water in a bottle is priced more than milk and I think we need to have a strong yarn to the retailers about that,” he said.
“[I will] basically ask them if they want to fix it, that would be great if they don’t ask the government to fix it which they always complain about but that’s an option that we can always keep up our sleeve.”
The statement follows the recent decisions by Murray Goulburn and Fonterra to cut their farmgate milk prices. Murray Goulburn cut its price from $5.65 to a low of $4.75 kgMS, while Fonterra cut its price from $5.60 per kgMS to $5.00 per kgMS.
Chinese authorities have increased restrictions on food and other products imported through online sales, in an effort to entice consumers back to the domestic market.
As the China Post reports, last week he Ministry of Finance published a list of more than 1,100 imported items that will be subject to a new 11.9 per cent value-added tax. The products listed included food, baby formula, home appliances, cosmetics, clothing, shoes and so forth.
E-commerce is currently booming in China, driven by an expanding middle class that is increasingly unsatisfied with the quality of local products and willing to spend more for products from Countries like Australia with more of a “clean, green” image.
In Australia’s case this has particularly been evident in the demand for infant formula and health supplements.
As the SMH reports, apart from the tax, Chinese authorities will also impose tighter regulation over what products may be imported through e-commerce warehouses in pilot free trade zones. These enjoy lower tax rates and looser customs requirements.
It is not yet clear what goods will be involved in these new restrictions and there is a fear that this may have a larger impact than the tax hike. Higher logistics costs could be passed onto consumers.
So far e-commerce companies have mostly not passed on the tax hike to consumers.
One such company Alibaba Group Holding, for example said, “…many overseas brands and retailers on our platform don’t have plans to raise prices in the short term so that consumers can gradually adapt to the change.”
The change does not affect the grey market of so-called “daigou”, Australian-based Chinese making money by personally sending products to China. However, according to the SMH, in recent times these have been subjected to more spot-checks by China’s postal and quarantine inspection services.
Round 4 of the Local Government Organics Collection Systems grants are now open for councils to apply for funding to reduce and recycle food waste in NSW.
The program is being delivered in partnership with the Environmental Trust, as part of the $465.7 million Waste Less Recycle More program.
EPA Chair and CEO, Barry Buffier said up to $1.3 million is available for local councils to introduce new or enhanced collection services for food and organic waste.
“Each year in NSW, 800,000 tonnes of food waste ends up in landfill from households while businesses contribute 170,000 tonnes. This is why these grants that support collection services are so important.
“Already in the first three rounds we have awarded $15.8 million to 38 councils to collect an estimated 144,000 tonnes more food and garden waste a year. We have also provided 552,669 new green lid bins and kitchen caddies to more than 230,000 homes.
“Now in this fourth and final round, I encourage councils with projects that can be completed by June next year to put in an application, if they have not done so already.
The Local Government Organics Collections Systems grants program is part of a comprehensive strategy to transform organics waste collections across NSW.
“The Government has been working steadily towards its target of providing 70 per cent of NSW homes with kerbside organics collections services by 2017,” Mr Buffier said.
The funding provides a unique opportunity for councils to improve services that will assist residents preserve their local environment.
“Currently approximately 45 per cent of a red lid bin is made up of organics waste, so these new collection services will make a big difference in the amount of household waste being recovered and recycled in NSW.
“In landfill, organics waste breaks down to generate greenhouse gas emissions and leachate. By recycling this waste into compost, then soil quality, water retention and crop yields benefit.
The Local Government Organics Collections Systems grants will transform waste management and recycling in NSW.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued an $8,000 fine to P & M Quality SmallGoods (Primo), for the emission of offensive odours from its Scone site on 21 January 2016.
EPA Manager Hunter Region, Adam Gilligan, said the EPA issued the penalty notice following ongoing concerns about offensive odours and non-compliance at this site.
“The EPA has received a number of complaints regarding this site in recent months” Gilligan continued.
“On this occasion, the odour was caused by a series of breakdowns and a power failure in the abattoir’s rendering plant. During the breakdown the company stored a large amount of fresh offal in refrigerated containers before transporting the offal to an offsite rendering plant. This led to the emission of offensive odours.
“Odours have a real impact on the comfort of local residents. In this case, residents reported that they stopped outdoor activities and remained inside their homes until the odour dissipated.
“The EPA relies on the community to report environmental issues, such as offensive odours, and we will always act on reports where sensitive receptors are impacted. This includes homes, schools, public space adjacent to a residential area or hospitals, or places where a person’s regular daily life might be affected.”
The EPA is considering further regulatory action should offensive odours continue to be emitted from the premises, which may include varying the licence to add a pollution reduction program aimed at tackling the odour issue.
P & M Quality SmallGoods has indicated improvement works are planned to reduce odour issues on site, in particular upgrades to the company’s waste water treatment process.
The chief of Wesfarmers believes the effects test, introduced by the Government yesterday, is bad policy and has vowed that it will not affect the retail giant’s pricing policy.
As the SMH reports, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said yesterday that the test is designed to stop big businesses from behaving in a way that has "the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially reducing competition".
However, Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder said that it will not affect the price cutting behaviour of its brands such as Coles, Bunnings and Kmart.
Calling his reaction to the news "disappointment, to a degree disillusionment, he said, "We will continue to do what we have always done, which is compete aggressively and provide consumers with great outcomes and if that for some reason gets us in hot water then we will deal with that down the track."
And he even suggested that possible legal action would not change this position.
"We'd be doing the wrong thing by our shareholders to say we'd stop investing and stop reducing our prices and if we end up in court we'll deal with it then,” he said.
Elsewhere the new policy was welcomed.
As the ABC reports, Former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Allan Fels said it will help small businesses compete.
"Small businesses are often stopped from competing by big business just taking actions to crush them and often those small businesses are responsible for innovation and for new ways of doing things,” Fels said.
"Most of the innovation comes from small business, but it is cut down by big business when they discount prices in an often predatory manner, blocking small players from getting into markets by things like exclusivity arrangements.
"This is of huge long-term importance, but tomorrow morning you won't wake up and find you're paying less for goods.
"But in 50 years people will look back and say that's had a big effect over time on preserving competitive small businesses."