An award-winning Queensland milk company has accused the state government of “hogwash” after a lucrative contract to supply hospitals went to foreign-owned companies.
Sunshine Coast dairy company Maleny Dairies is seeking an urgent meeting with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to explain why it was overlooked in favour of offshore interests.
“The Queensland government has spent last year saying it will support local Queensland owned businesses and Queensland jobs and then gives a milk tender to a Chinese and French owned company,” the company said in a Facebook post challenging the decision.
“Maleny Dairies farmers needed that contract and so did we. Local farmers will struggle to stay in business if we cant get the kind of support that Norco enjoys from their state government (in NSW).”
Owner and director Ross Hopper said claims his company could not supply enough milk for the Metro North Hospital and Health service’s 19,000 staff and one million patients were rubbish.
He also said the decision made a mockery of the government’s Buy Queensland strategy to support Queensland jobs.
“We’re currently doing over 200,000 litres a week. That tender was only five per cent,” Mr Hopper has told ABC radio on Friday.
“It’s hogwash. Why would we put the tender in if we couldn’t supply it?”
In a statement on Thursday, the government spruiked the fact staff and patients would continue to get “fresh milk”, sourced “as much as possible” from Queensland dairies.
It said the government “knows the importance of supporting local providers wherever possible” and pointed out the successful bidder, Lactalis Australia, began with the Pauls milk factory on the banks of the Brisbane River in the 1930s and had a head office at South Brisbane.
But it made no reference to the fact that Lactalis Australia is owned and operated by the Lactalis Group, a French business and the world’s largest fresh dairy company.
A small part of the supply contract will be serviced by Lion dairy, which is owned by Japan’s Kirin Holdings but is about to be bought by the China Mengniu Dairy Company, with that deal subject to a review by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Acting Minister for Health Leeanne Enoch said the government chose the only tenderer able to supply the full range dairy products needed. A Metro North spokesperson told the ABC Maleny Dairies could not supply enough product to service the contract.
The local company, which employs 50 staff and buys milk from 11 Queensland dairy farmers, hopes to secure a meeting with the premier and the health minister.