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Labor backs help for Aust dairy farmers

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/05/2016

Australia's Labor Party has told Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce his rescue plan for struggling Victorian dairy farmers is vague and comes with little detail.

Because the federal government is in caretaker mode until after the July 2 election, it needs to consult the opposition about any decisions of substance.

Mr Joyce is proposing a number of measures to address what he says are the challenges facing farmers following a recent decision by dairy giants Murray-Goulburn and New Zealand's Fonterra to slash farmgate prices for milk solids.

They include:

* Offering concessional loans, based largely on the existing drought assistance scheme.

* Prioritising access to welfare support.

* Providing additional resources for rural financial counselling services.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon has told Mr Joyce Labor will not stand in the way of any support for farmers.

"We will do nothing to delay action," he said in a letter to the minister.

But he criticised Mr Joyce for not outlining more detail, describing the proposed measures as vague and couched in qualified terms.

Mr Fitzgibbon also noted that the minister's "outrage" about the crisis came only after the caretaker period started.

"For the three weeks this was going on he said nothing," he told AAP on Sunday.

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