A 16-year-old Victorian school girl campaigning for a better deal for struggling dairy farmers has received a surprise call from the Deputy Prime Minister after her story aired on the ABC’s AM program yesterday.
Chloe Scott started a petition last week calling on Mr Joyce to review the dairy pricing system after producers were hit with huge retrospective cuts to their milk payments by processors Murray Goulburn and Fonterra.
Chloe said Mr Joyce phoned to congratulate her on the work she was doing to highlight the issues facing farmers such as her father, who had to cut his herd on the family dairy farm at Boorcan in south-western Victoria.
“I told him [Mr Joyce] that I want action not promises,” she said.
“He talked about short-term measures and said it was a tricky time to talk about long-term solutions because of the elections and the Government being in caretaker mode.”
Visiting Shepparton yesterday in the dairy heartland of the Murray Goulburn in northern Victoria, Mr Joyce — who is also Agriculture Minister — said he was working to ensure dairy farmers could access the low-interest loans currently available only to drought-affected farmers.
He also noted the high cost of water faced by dairy farmers in the region.
Chloe’s Change.org petition has attracted tens of thousands more signature since yesterday and this morning was close to logging 120,000 supporters.
She says she has been inundated with media requests from around the country and overseas and has been heartened by the many messages of support for dairy farmers.
Chloe said she had been boarding at Ballarat Grammar but because of financial pressures was now living with her mother, who moved to the town to find work.
“The headmaster yesterday told me the school would do whatever it could to help me,” she said.
“But I do worry about my father who is home on the farm alone.”
Chloe says she is aiming for 175,000 signatures before presenting the petition to Mr Joyce.