Nationals Blast 'Half-Baked' Drought Milk Levy
Nationals ministers have launched an extraordinary attack on Australia's major supermarket chains for "pretending to be good people" during the drought.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has blasted Coles and Woolworths for squibbing on a "half-baked" idea to introduce a milk levy to support drought-affected farmers.
Littleproud said the retail titans had failed to follow through with the original idea of a 10-cent-a-litre levy on all milk brands that would be paid to processors.
"The result is a half-baked policy which only applies to Coles' three-litre variety of their own milk brand - and may not even go back to the farmers who supply that tiny portion of drinking milk," he said.
Woolworths is only applying the levy to their own brand milk in two and three litre varieties, and Aldi has refused to consider a levy at all.
Littleproud was especially critical of Coles for being dragged into the "empty media stunt" when rival Woolworths signed up.
Coles was quick to fire back at the comments, sparking an astonishing war of words.
"It is disappointing that the minister has chosen to criticise Coles - which has already committed over $12 million for drought relief - before becoming familiar with the facts," a spokesman said.
The company has appointed an independent auditor to oversee the process and verify funds have been allocated to the farmers as promised.
Nationals MP Andrew Broad, an assistant minister to the prime minister, accused Coles of trying to be "big men" during the drought.
Broad seized on the public clash to demand an end to the controversial $1 a litre milk, which was introduced in 2013.
"I think what Coles are doing by pretending to be good people in the drought, we can now see through," he told Sky News on Monday.
"Nothing makes people more cynical than supermarkets saying they're going to help farmers and then not actually helping them."
The agriculture minister saved his most vicious remarks for German supermarket giant Aldi.
"They've done bugger all, they've done nothing, they won't ever come to the party and help the dairy industry," Littleproud told the ABC.
"Aldi basically just turned around and said 'go and jam it'. Well, you know what, we should say to the big German 'you go and jam it'."
Aldi also returned serve, saying it was working directly with suppliers to ease pressure on farmers by accepting price increases.
"Without a transparent, auditable and equitable process for funds collection and distribution, we believe that it would be irresponsible of Aldi to tax consumers on the purchase of milk," the company said.
"Our firm preference is to support government-led industry reform, not short-term levies that could artificially alter market dynamics and have limited impact for those in most need."
Woolworths has added a 10-cent-a-litre levy to the two and three litre varieties of its own $1 a litre milk.
Funds collected so far through the levy were being distributed to more than 280 drought-affected dairy farmers on Monday.