Go jam it, Aldi: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud goes next level in drought relief milk levy feud
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has stepped up his feud with Aldi over a 10¢ across-the-board milk levy to support drought-stricken farmers, saying the German retailer has refused to back the move.
The Minister yesterday took aim at the supermarket giants for their ‘half-baked’ attempts to introduce the levy.
But he saved his most scathing remarks for Aldi.
“They’ve done bugger all, they’ve done nothing, they won’t ever come to the party and help the dairy industry,” Mr Littleproud told the ABC on Monday morning.
“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’.
“The reality is they’re not interested in the dairy industry here in Australia. They’ve done nothing, they’ve done bugger all, and it’s time the Australian consumer looked at Aldi and what they’ve done.”
Aldi 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.”
Mr Littleproud said Coles and Woolworths had failed to follow through with the original idea of a 10¢-a-litre levy on all milk brands that would be paid to processors that supply supermarkets.
He took particular aim at Coles, saying the supermarket was forced to take part in the scheme when rival Woolworth’s signed up.
Mr Littleproud said Coles was being either lazy or slippery through its “empty media stunt”.
“The result is a half-baked policy which only applies to Coles’ 3-litre variety of their own milk brand — and may not even go back to the farmers who supply that tiny portion of drinking milk,” Mr Littleproud said.
But Coles hit back at the comments.
“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.
Coles said it had appointed PwC as an independent auditor to oversee the application administration process and verify funds have been allocated to the farmers as promised.
Woolworths is only applying the levy to its own brand $1 milk and Aldi has refused to consider a levy at all, he said.
Dairy farmers last month called for a levy on all milk sales to help farmers battling drought.
Woolworths has yet to respond to the comments.
Nationals ministers have backed Mr Littleproud’s comments, with one saying Australia’s major supermarket chains are “pretending to be good people” during the drought.
Nationals MP Andrew Broad, an assistant minister to the Prime Minister, accused Coles of trying to be “big men” during the drought.
Mr 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.”
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails