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Calls for financial assistance to keep Lion Dairy in Australian hands

A Japanese-owned beverage giant’s plans to sell its Australian dairy and fruit juice business to a Chinese company has collapsed after failing to get the blessing of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Kirin struck a deal in November to divest its Lion Dairy and Drinks subsidiary to China Mengniu Dairy. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission allowed the sale in February.

But Kirin advised on Tuesday the companies had mutually decided to abandon the deal as they had not secured federal government approval.

Atherton Tableland dairy farmers are pleased the sale of Lion’s Malanda Dairy Factory to China has fallen through. In a rare moment of nationalistic concern, the Liberal Jewish Treasurer Josh Frydenberg disapproved of the sale

In a move to keep Lion Dairy in Australian hands, Kennedy MP Bob Katter has called on the federal LNP Government to immediately provide the capital that would enable iconic Australian-owned Bega to come together with Norco to purchase Lion’s Dairy, putting the dairy industry back in Aussie hands.

Mr Katter said the LNP had a long, sour history of failing the Australian dairy industry between deregulation and then “conning” the farmers into joining the dairy co-op, Dairy Farmers, and then immediately selling to a foreign corporation.

“The dairy farmers were sold out when they were conned into joining this big corporation under the illusion it would be “farmer owned”. As soon as they joined, the blokes that ran it immediately sold it out to foreign corporation.

“The northern dairy area is maybe the biggest dairy area in Australia – the Atherton Tablelands once had 250 dairymen and now we have 50.

“And so to then see the Government sitting on the side-lines while China was buying Lion, the biggest milk processor in Australia – the country was disgusted. Every Australian was disgusted.”

Mr Katter said that every single political party apart from the LNP were now in favour of a minimum price scheme and that supporting the sale of Lion to Bega would be a small step in righting the wrong that was bestowed upon dairymen around Australia in 2001 when the industry was deregulated.

“The President of the KAP is Shane Paulger, one of Queensland’s bigger dairymen, who together with the dairy industry have been fighting for the restoration of the minimum price scheme for 20 years.

“Deregulation has been an absolute tragedy and travesty; it has been the destruction of the industry.

“Every employee in Australia enjoys an arbitration, which is a proper and reasonable income and that is very good but the governments of Australia will deprive the farmers of the same right to arbitration?

“If the honourable members for Woolworths and Coles, the ALP and the LNP, won’t give it to us, then we might start playing their game. Please God we can raise the money so Bega can buy Lion. If we do that, we will be meeting fire with fire.

“The LNP is the only political party voting against a minimum price scheme in Australia. Even the Greens and the ALP are voting for it and so all we get out of the LNP whether it is dams or minimum price scheme or Woollies and Coles is a “call for an Inquiry” – that is their idea of government.

“So I challenge the federal Government, if you are even remotely fair dinkum then provide some capital investment Bega to buy Lion. Let our Australian money work for we Australians”

Mr Katter also warned that while China had gone away, it was only temporary and that they would be back.