Minister calls on Coles to put 20c levy on dairy

Minister for water resources David Littleproud has doubled down on his scathing criticism of Coles, accusing the supermarket giant of greed.

Coles last week agreed to pay dairy cooperative Norco $5.25 million after the ACCC accused the company of not fully passing on a 10-cent drought levy on milk to farmers

Littleproud called on shoppers to boycott the grocery giant until it puts a 20-cent drought levy on all dairy products.

But he doesn’t believe the call to abandon Coles would come under scrutiny if Scott Morrison makes good on his threat to crack down on secondary boycotts.

“I think that’s a bit of a long bow around secondary boycotts,” he told AAP on Monday.

“I am saying to the Australian public they have an opportunity to vote with their wallet and their feet on where they can actually put pressure on an industry to get meaningful change.”

The prime minister has flagged reforms to protect companies from environmentalist boycotts over carbon emissions, but the scope of potential changes remain unclear.

Littleproud said he didn’t expect a response from Coles about his calls for a boycott.

He said the supermarket promised farmers and consumers a 10-cents-a-litre price increase on two and three litre Coles-branded milk would be passed on to producers.

“Why would the Australian public want to do business with a company that can’t be trusted?” he said.

Coles disagreed with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission decision but agreed to the payments in order to avoid “an unnecessary dispute” and help farmers.

Littleproud said all supermarkets had the responsibility to ensure a sustainable dairy industry.

“Otherwise you won’t have the best dairy products in the world on your shelf. It will have to be imported,” he said.

“This is their opportunity to show they can work collaboratively with government without the greed they’ve showed in the past.”

He said Coles could get some redemption from a 20-cent price increase across its dairy range while the government implements market reforms to help farmers.

“The consumer has shown they’re prepared to support the dairy industry, the government’s prepared to do it, but what are the supermarkets doing?”

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