Prepared by: Steve Rice

The first government regulation of the sale of milk was initially supervised by Boards of Health and other local authorities under the Health Act 1898, and the Food and Drugs Act of 1908.

The Dairy Cattle Improvement Act 1921, was passed to provide for the licensing of bulls and utilising the money derived from such licensing in encouraging the dairy industry in South Australia. The Act set up the Dairy Cattle Fund under the control of the Minister to provide such support. The Act was repealed by the Dairy Industry Act Amendment Act 1982, on the 26 March 1987.

The first dairy legislation concerning quality, reflected community concerns for public health and quality produce, and dairy farmer concerns for fair returns. The 1920's epidemics of human disease from raw milk, particularly tuberculosis, gave rise to the need for government intervention.

The Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. J Cowan successfully introduced the Dairy Industry Act in 1928. The Dairy Industry Act was administered by the Department of Agriculture to set basic standards for milk for manufacturing purposes to encourage local demand for quality dairy products and enable exports from South Australia to comply with Federal Government requirements. The Dairy Industry Act licensed dairy farms, milk depots, creameries and dairy factories, regulated the quality of dairy products and provided for industry training and certificates of competency. The Department of Agriculture staff were appointed as inspectors under this Act.

The Dairy Produce Act 1934 was assented to on 15 November 1934, to provide for the marketing of dairy produce. This Act established the Dairy Produce Board and was designed to set periodic butter and cheese quotas to limit the proportions of butter or cheese that manufacturers could place on the local market. This enabled manufacturers and producers to receive a higher price for local product than the London parity price.

The South Australian Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee Limited came into existence on 1 March 1935. The Department of Agriculture played a significant role on this Board. The last Annual Report was for the 1975/76 financial year and was repealed by the Dairy Industry Act Amendment Act 1982, on 26 March 1987.

Following the introduction of the Dairy Industry Act in 1928, participants in the supply of drinking milk sought to control standards in this sector of the industry. The Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Sir George Jenkins introduced the Metropolitan Milk Supply Act in 1946 to ensure the quality of milk and cream supplied to the Adelaide metropolitan area, stabilise prices and give legal support to the equalisation arrangements for pooling of milk returns to producers. This voluntary industry equalisation scheme was administered by the Metropolitan Milk Equalisation Committee Limited.

The Metropolitan Milk Board (MMB) operated under the Metropolitan Milk Supply Act 1946, from 1947 until 30 June 1993. The MMB regulated the production, treatment, storage and delivery of milk and cream in the metropolitan milk supply area, and the metropolitan milk distribution area.The MMB conducted laboratory services, fixed milk prices, controlled and zoned retail vendors, and promoted milk and cream.

Dairy farmers outside the metropolitan milk supply area and all other dairy manufacturers continued to be licensed and regulated by the Department of Agriculture, under the Dairy Industry Act 1928. Milk prices at wholesale, semi wholesale and retail outside the metropolitan area were set by the Prices Commissioner under the Prices Act 1948.

The Metropolitan Milk Supply Act, 1946 was amended to enable a milk treatment licence fee to be collected from metropolitan milk supply area producers, to be paid to south east producers via an equalisation arrangement (termed the augmentation scheme) from 1st January 2006.

On 1 July 1993 the Dairy Industry Act 1992 came into effect, thereby repealing the Metropolitan Milk Supply Act 1946 and the Dairy Industry Act 1928. The Dairy Authority of South Australia was set up to replace the Metropolitan Milk Board. The Authority now had state wide responsibilities for farmers, manufacturers and milk vendors.

The Authority was responsible for milk pricing and implementing a state wide farm gate equalisation scheme from 1 January 1994. The Authority implemented Codes of Practice and also took over responsibility for dairy certificate training courses. The Authority, under direction from the Minister,handed over the laboratory testing service to Herd Improvement Services Coop Ltd (HISCOL) in January 1994.

Retail prices and margins beyond the farm gate were deregulated on 1January 1995. In May 1995 the South Australian Market Milk Equalisation Agreement was amended and legislative changes were made to the Act to authorise the equalisation scheme and ensure it did not breach the Trade Practice Act.

On 1 July 2000 the industry was deregulated at the national level, with consequent deregulation occurring in the states at the same time. The farm gate milk pricing and equalisation legislation was repealed on 1 July 2000.

The Primary Produce (Food Safety Schemes) Act 2004 passed through Parliament in June 2004 and was assented to on 1 July 2004. The Act allowed for the implementation of food safety schemes for any primary industry sector deemed necessary by Government and industry.

The Primary Produce (Food Safety Schemes) (Dairy Industry) Regulations 2005 came into effect on 1 August 2005, and the Dairy Industry Act 1992 was repealed. The Regulations provided for the implementation of food safety schemes by dairy farmers, dairy produce carriers, dairy manufacturers and dairy distributors.

On 1 July 2009, the Dairy Industry Regulations were amended to legislate for a national dairy standard developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand. This standard is FSANZ Standard 4.2.4, "Primary Production and Processing Standard for Dairy Products". These changes also transferred regulatory responsibility for Dairy Distributors to local government.

Throughout the history of dairy legislation, staff from the Department of Agriculture and its successors have been either involved in dairy legislation enforcement (Dairy Industry Act 1928, from 1928 until 1993), or giving advice to the Minister of the day in relation to legislative reviews, appointments to Boards and liaison with industry and agencies such as the Metropolitan Milk Board and the Dairy Authority of South Australia.

References:

1. Webb, L R et al (1977) "Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the South Australian Dairy Industry"

2. Government of SA (1992) "Dairy Industry Review White Paper"

3. Government of SA (2000) "Legislation Review Green Paper"

Top of page