Member for Indi Cathy McGowan flags co-op proposal to ensure milk processed in Kiewa Valley rather than Cobram in the long term

Political views: Labor MLC Jaclyn Symes and Liberal member for Benambra Bill Tilley listen to the independent member for Indi Cathy McGowan at a public meeting at Tangambalanga to discuss fallout from Murray Goulburn's factory closure. Picture: MARK JESSER
Political views: Labor MLC Jaclyn Symes and Liberal member for Benambra Bill Tilley listen to the independent member for Indi Cathy McGowan at a public meeting at Tangambalanga to discuss fallout from Murray Goulburn's factory closure. Picture: MARK JESSER

A CO-OP could replace Murray Goulburn at Kiewa and make “fantastic stuff to meet the demand the world’s got for our produce”, Cathy McGowan reckons.

The member for Indi floated the proposal at a public meeting on Monday night to discuss the impact of Murray Goulburn shutting its Kiewa dairy.

“I’d be bold enough to say I think Murray Goulburn lost the way with its co-operative and we could go forward to a very strong co-operative movement, that’s my preference,” Ms McGowan told a crowd of about 115 at Tangambalanga.

“If Murray Goulburn want to play hardball on that site, well I think you guys do your work, and we say ‘okay well we can borrow money, we can build a new site’.

“We might not just make only raw milk, we might just make fantastic stuff to meet the demand the world’s got for our produce.

“So while it’s a hit in the guts for us, I don’t think it leaves us poor – we’ve really good grain-fed beautiful milk coming out of our valleys.”

National Union of Workers North East organiser Neil Smith responded to the co-op idea in highlighting the immediate loss.

“Even if we do get a new co-op or whatever, it’s starting from the ground again,” Mr Smith said.

“These jobs are well-paid jobs, they’ve been negotiated in an agreement for a long time and the money that people get supports the community.

“They’ve got extra money to do things, they can buy a car.”

The member for Benambra, Bill Tilley, praised the union for its pragmatic approach, but warned nothing would reverse Murray Goulburn’s decision.

“The reality is they’ll close this plant, they’ll have more stainless steel than what they know to do with,” Mr Tilley said.

But he pointed to a gold mine at Stawell becoming a science lab as an example of a positive from a negative.

Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie did not attend the meeting, but a message was read from her.

“(The closure) has a key impact here in Wodonga with almost half the workforce at that factory living here,” Cr Speedie wrote.

Grim outlook: Former Murray Goulburn employee Jack Britton watches on at Monday night's public meeting with union officials Neil Smith and Andrew Cameron blurred in the foreground. Picture: MARK JESSER

Grim outlook: Former Murray Goulburn employee Jack Britton watches on at Monday night's public meeting with union officials Neil Smith and Andrew Cameron blurred in the foreground. Picture: MARK JESSER

“We have scores of people looking at a future without secure employment and that is something that should be a major concern for all of us.” 

At the shopfront: Wodonga Kiewa milk distributor Sue Coon told of how she had stayed loyal to Murray Goulburn products despite approaches from other dairies.

At the shopfront: Wodonga Kiewa milk distributor Sue Coon told of how she had stayed loyal to Murray Goulburn products despite approaches from other dairies.

A letter tabled at the meeting from Kiewa factory workers calling on the Murray Goulburn board to resign will be presented to the company by Indigo Council.

Questions about workers’ entitlements and redundancy timing, as well as the remuneration of the board and executive, will also be asked of Murray Goulburn.

Shire mayor Jenny O’Connor told workers: “Don’t give up, we’re not giving up, we’re doing everything we can.”