National Farmers' Federation

Tougher unfair contract protections good first step towards better deal for farmers

The National Farmers Federation welcomes the introduction of a Bill to Federal Parliament to improve protections for farmers against unfair contract terms.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Tax Integrity and Supporting Business Investment) Bill seeks to make unfair contracts illegal and establish pecuniary damages for those who impose such terms.

“This is a reform the farm sector and small businesses alike across the country have been crying out for for some time,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.

“The NFF commends ACCC Agriculture Commission Mick Keogh and his team’s work in getting the changes to a point where they can come into force via legislation, and we expect Parliament to pass this as a matter of priority.

“Once passed, it is vital the ACCC is provided the funding and resources needed for effective compliance and enforcement activities to ensure farmers are truly protected.”

Mr Mahar said despite a decade of unfair contract term laws in action, farmers were still at the mercy of one-sided and onerous contract conditions, often with little to no recourse.

“The current laws have no penalties and no teeth and frankly have done little to redress the power imbalances within food and fibre supply chains. These amendments will go some way to resolving these issues. The onus is now on the Parliament to pass this Bill and address farmers concerns.”

Mr Mahar said the Bill should be seen as a ‘good first step’ in much needed broader competition policy reform.

“More needs to be done to address the severe power imbalances within food and fibre supply chains which are subverting the operation of competitive markets.

“Ahead of the federal election, the NFF is seeking a commitment from all major parties to a review of mergers and acquisition laws, as per calls made by the ACCC.

“Farmers are also calling for an Office of a Perishable Agricultural Goods Advocate to be established to give policy, compliance and enforcement grunt to the many violations of competition laws across our supply chains.

“We know some in the big end of town like to portray these reforms as prescriptive red tape, but this is a false, self-serving characterisation.

“It is about ensuring competitive markets deliver value for all. The old adage of turkeys voting against Christmas lunch does come to mind,” Mr Mahar said.

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