FIGHTBACK: The decision by Healthshare to shun Norco for foreign-owned Dairy Farmers is seeing the fur fly in parliament and behind the scenes this week.
FIGHTBACK: The decision by Healthshare to shun Norco for foreign-owned Dairy Farmers is seeing the fur fly in parliament and behind the scenes this week. Susanna Freymark

'Downright ridiculous': Norco fight goes to parliament

THE decision by the NSW government to overlook Australia's oldest and largest dairy co-op for a foreign-owned supplier for the region's key health facilities has been debated in state parliament on Tuesday as Thomas George MP met with the health minister to argue the case for Norco.

A spokesman for Mr George said he had met with Health Minister Brad Hazzard, but would not comment on the outcome, except to say "there would be more discussions this week."

Norco was at the forefront of parliamentary debate on Tuesday as the Opposition Health Spokesman Walt Secord moved a formal motion in the NSW Legislative Council objecting to the decision to shun Norco as the supplier of milk to 16 northern NSW hospitals.

Mr Secord said he would be lodging a freedom of information request to find out the details surrounding issuing of the milk contract by HealthShare.

He said this was about "tearing off the cloak of secrecy" surrounding the activity of decision-making within NSW Health.

Mr Secord joined North Coast Labor including candidates Craig Elliot (Tweed), Asren Pugh (Ballina) and Janelle Saffin (Lismore) in condemning the decision to drop Norco as a supplier.

"This is downright ridiculous," Mr Secord said.

"We have the world's best milk produced on the North Coast by the world's best farmers from the world's best cows; and the State Government decides to buy its milk from across the border rather than from just up the road."

Mr Secord said the National Party should be putting local jobs first and showing their solidarity with farmers and local Norco workers.

Meanwhile, key businesses in Lismore said they were proud to be customers of Norco and support their local milk producers.

Southern Cross University uses more than 15,000 litres annually, a spokeswoman said.

"The university purchased 15,255 litres of milk from Norco in the 12 months to April 2018," she said.

"SCU is proud to support local businesses such as Norco."

Lismore City Council's outgoing general manager Gary Murphy said supporting local businesses was very important.

He said while council had to be careful not to infringe any Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regulations, they were able to give more weighting to local businesses and companies who could prove they would support local businesses if they won a tender.

"For example of a business from outside the 2480 postcode, region or state can show they will put up their workers in local motel, (or) use local contractors... then this will be taken into consideration."



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