REPRESENTATIVES of the dairy industry have been labelled cowards by an anti-dairy group that was keen to debate them in Melbourne.
The debate, scheduled for September 21, was proposed in the wake of a petition urging Warrnambool-raised comedian Dave Hughes to give up milk.
Organisers called on Corangamite mayor Chris O’Connor, Farmer Power leader Jock O’Keefe and Dairy Australia managing director Ian Halliday to debate the issues around the industry.
But Cr O’Connor and Mr O’Keefe have indicated they are either not available or not willing to take part in a debate in Melbourne, with Cr O’Connor saying any debate on the dairy industry should be held in the dairying heartland, not the Melbourne CBD.
Mr Halliday was unable to be contacted yesterday and it is unknown if he will attend.
Dairy Debate spokesman Bruce Poon called Cr O’Connor and Mr O’Keefe “cowards”.
“It would be very disappointing for them not to come out and support their industry,” Mr Poon said.
“We’ll try to find replacements (for the pro-dairy side). We’re trying to hold a debate to inform people about what’s going on.
“We’ve tried to move the debate to suit them as much as we can.
“I think they’re cowards. They’ve been invited to a debate so people can come along who want to understand the facts and views on both sides and make an informed decision.”
Organisers had called for “a public debate on the facts about dairy”, with the three topics of the discussion to be “the impact of dairy on health, environment and animals”.
Mr O’Keefe said he would be away and unable to attend but noted that “unless the other parties were going along (he) wouldn’t be going”.
He added that even if he was around, he wouldn’t have time to go to Melbourne.
“I’ve got cows to milk and a farm to run — I don’t have time for a silly debate,” Mr O’Keefe said.
He supported Cr O’Connor’s call for a debate to be held at DemoDAIRY, near Terang, where a working dairy could be demonstrated to vegan lobbyists behind the protest.
“That would be a more logical thing to do,” Mr O’Keefe said.
Cr O’Connor remained adamant yesterday that he would not attend a debate in Melbourne and would prefer such an event to be held in the south-west.