A reusable bag at a Woolworths store. Picture: AAP/Woolworths Group
A reusable bag at a Woolworths store. Picture: AAP/Woolworths Group

Plastic bag money ‘should go to farmers’

SENIOR Nationals emboldened by a royal commission into banks will threaten Coles and Woolworths with a political firestorm for charging for plastic bags at the same time dairy farmers are being squeezed by $1 milk.

Influential heavy-hitters, including former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, Cabinet Minister Matt Canavan and Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien are demanding the duopolies ensure dairy farmers are paid more money for their milk or face government intervention.

Mr Joyce told News Queensland that money raised for charging 15c for reusable plastic bags should be directed to dairy farmers, especially those in north Queensland.

"Don't chance your arm on this,'' he said in a message to the supermarket giants, "because that's what the banks did."

He implied the Trade Practices Act could be used to apply a blowtorch to the issue.

"They've had fair warning about this.

"Are you honestly telling me you can charge 15c for a plastic bag but $1 for milk?"

He said they were charging more for water on their shelves.

Mr O'Brien, who pressured Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull into holding a royal commission into banks, will tell Parliament on Thursday farmers cannot withstand the financial squeeze.

"One dollar milk can't go on forever. It is just unsustainable. Coles and Woolworths need to inject more money into the dairy supply chain by ceasing their disastrous milk price war, and at the same time use their massive market influence to ensure that our dairy farming families are treated fairly,'' Mr O'Brien said ahead of his speech.

"Every year, month or even day these giant supermarkets don't recognise that ignoring general inflation and the significant rise in production costs, their milk price war fires another shot into the heart of dairying in Queensland.

"While Coles and Woolworths continue their unethical $1 milk retail practices, milk processors will dance to their tune and the innocent dairy farmer is getting screwed."

Woolworths on Wednesday night pointed to its previous statement that money raised from the sale of reusable plastic bags would fund a Landcare grants program.

A Coles spokeswoman said a portion of sales from the company's new range of "Community Bags" would be donated to its community partners Clean Up Australia, Little Athletics Australia, SecondBite and Guide Dogs Australia.

"Coles also sells SADA Fresh milk in SA, WAFarmers First milk in WA and Farmers Fund milk in Victoria, with 20 cents a litre directed to industry funds which support the dairy industry," she said.

"In addition, since April 2015, the $50 million Coles Nurture Fund has provided grants and interest-free loans to around 30 food and grocery producers across Australia to support projects which drive innovation."