The executive chairman of Bega Cheese has not ruled out expressing interest in the Murray Goulburn Kiewa plant, which this week will finish making milk
Barry Irvin, in Beechworth to address the 15th George Briscoe Kerferd Oration, said he “would never say never”.
“We have traditionally bought facilities others didn’t think had a future,” he said. “When we took over Tatura back in 2007, it was struggling then and we found a way to make that successful.
“MG are thinking about what their options are and we’ll hope we’re on the list of people they want to talk to.”
Mr Irvin referenced Murray Goulburn’s decision to cut the milk price to suppliers in 2016 during his oration.
“The decision not to follow our competition with a price drop involved tens of millions of dollars,” he said.
“In my mind corporate-social responsibility has to be in all that you do.”
Mr Irvin spoke of leaving the dairy farm he grew up on to work as a banker and returning after his father died, and how deregulation was his make-or-break moment as a new chairman in 2000.
“I wandered the streets in the lead up to 2000, talking to bankers, my business network, my board and even my competitors,” he said.
“The early models and solutions were formed by many in the Bega Cheese network in our offices, in other people’s offices, at local footy grounds, at the pub.”
Bega gained 1920 employees in expanding into the $1 billion company it is today.
But it was Mr Irvin’s story of his son that stirred the most emotions on Sunday.
“Autism arrived in our and Matty’s life like a hurricane when he was three, and in around a year Matty had lost all words (and) would self-injure,” he said.
“Some (specialists) did suggest he be surrendered … no was the firm answer.”
Mr Irvin got involved with an organisation called Giant Steps, supporting children with autism, and 20 years later he remains chairman.
“Both Bega Cheese and Giant Steps were created from very challenging circumstances … as we look at them today … we know they are an example of resilience, embracing change and being open to new ideas,” he said.