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Full transcript of media conference by Premier Denis Napthine – 14 February 2014

Friday, 14 February 2014

Subjects: Sungold Field Day, Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, Saputo, DEPI, fire assistance and recovery

E&OE

 REPORTER:

Just generally, how often – do you get down to the field days that much? Been to any of the top events?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

I’ve been to the Sungold Field Days for each and every year for at least 20 years. It is a fantastic event for south west Victoria and Warrnambool, and it’s a great event for the dairy industry. And this year is a very exciting year for Sungold Field Days and the dairy industry. The dairy industry is continuing to power the economy of south west Victoria, power exports in Victoria and Australia and provide high-quality milk and milk products to the world and the growing Asian community. So this is a fantastic event to celebrate the success of the dairy industry, to celebrate the great strengths of south west Victoria, but also to look forward to a bright future for dairying and the economy of our region.

REPORTER:

Have you spoken since what’s happened to Lion   Saputo Junior and given that a lot of their shareholders are Canadian, do you have fears that now that they’ve taken over they won’t be meeting the interests of the south west?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

There is no doubt the bidding war for Warrnambool Cheese & Butter was a vote of confidence in the dairy industry in Victoria, and particularly in south west Victoria. It shows that the world understand the opportunities that we have now and into the future. This is great for our dairy farmers, great for our exports, great for our jobs and economy. And I’m of the view that Saputo will be a very good partner in the development further of our dairy industry and I think Saputo have a long-term interest in growing opportunities here, looking after the interests of dairy farmers, growing exports from here and this is another string in the bow for South West Victoria and the growth of our dairy industry.

REPORTER:

Speaking to a Saputo rep the other day, said it’s going to be awhile before they around to organising farm-gate prices. Would you like to see something on paper for farmers to reassure them what their future holds?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, farmers know that they now have genuine competition. There’s Murray Goulburn, there’s Saputo, there’s Fonterra. There are other people who want their milk. Their milk is in demand locally and across the world. So the farm-gate prices, I believe, will be continued to be set by a competitive world market. So, there’s a bright future for the farmers. I think there’s a great future for milk processing and there’s a great future for our exports in dairy across the world. In the last couple of days I’ve been at Pauls Parmalat in Rowville where we expanded their UHT line, with 30 new jobs and potentially another 20 new jobs in the next 12 months, exporting UHT milk from Victoria into Hong Kong and China. And today Deputy Premier Peter Ryan was announcing another 50 jobs in dairy processing in Victoria. The future is bright for the dairy industry, the future’s bright for jobs in dairy processing and the Asian Century will continue to drive this great industry for decades to come.

REPORTER:

As Saputo sort of moves in and is no doubt  having discussions with Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, will you be wanting to ensure that, you know, they maintain the workforce here and the status quo in terms of the market?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

In my discussions with Saputo, they are very keen to maintain the workforce, maintain their loyal suppliers and to even grow their opportunities in this region. They see this investment as a toehold into a growing investment opportunity, not only in Warrnambool, but across the south west and across Victoria. They see Victoria as a real major producer of milk now, and an even bigger producer into the future. They want this as their foothold into the growing Asian market.

REPORTER:

The Opposition are in Bendigo today and they’ve said that when it comes to dealing with the fires that merging the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Environment has hindered the fire effort in the recovery sort of stages. Is that a fair assessment?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

I think it’s disappointing that the Labor Opposition want to play politics with which has been a great effort to deal with extreme fire conditions and the fantastic efforts of our frontline firefighters. And once again, the Labor Opposition is simply wrong. The merger of the departments to form the new department of DEPI as actually increased the number of frontline firefighters available to through DEPI, plus their seasonal firefighters on top of that. So, there are more DEPI firefighters not less, Labor is simply wrong and it’s absolutely disgraceful that they want to play politics with the great efforts of our firefighters, whether it be CFA, DEPI, MFB. Our firefighters have done a great job under trying conditions this week.

REPORTER:

When pouring money into recovery efforts, where do you draw the line with your budget bottom-line?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, in terms of fires, we’re there standing shoulder to shoulder with people affected and the Commonwealth Government is partnering with us to provide assistance to people who are dislocated, special assistance for those who’ve unfortunately lost their family home and continuing to provide assistance to shires to help them clean up and rebuild their assets. So, we’re about working with fire-affected communities and families and individuals to help them rebuild their lives and rebuild their properties.

And can I say, with respect to the fires: the great thing we’ve seen this week, despite the worst conditions we’ve seen in five years, there was no lives lost, no serious injuries. That was our primary objective and I say congratulations to each and every one of our firefighters and everybody involved in the total emergency response under trying conditions.

[ends]

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