Parliament sinks sugar industry arbitration bid

2 March 2017

Parliament sinks sugar industry arbitration bid

CANEGROWERS is disappointed the Queensland Parliament has failed to pass amendments to the Sugar Industry Act to allow for arbitration if negotiations and mediation don’t produce a workable contract between Wilmar Sugar and QSL for the 2017 sugarcane season.

Representing the majority of the 1,500 family famers left out on a limb by their protracted negotiations, CANEGROWERS is supportive of all efforts to help move the parties towards an On-Supply Agreement.

“Our members need that On-Supply Agreement to be in place before they can finalise Cane Supply Agreements which guarantee them a choice of sugar marketer,” CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said. “Yet the parties have been negotiating for over a year and have been unable to reach a conclusion.

“We appreciate the leadership the Liberal National Party has shown on this issue and the support of the Katter’s Australian Party and One Nation MPs who backed the amendment bill. However the Independent MPs sided with Labor to defeat it.

“This vote does not in any way affect those parts of the Sugar Industry Act which guarantee growers choice in marketing services,” Mr Galligan said. “We will continue our efforts to ensure all growers in Queensland can exercise that right.

“Provision for arbitration in the case of Cane Supply Agreements is already written into the Act and we had been assured that the inclusion of a mechanism for arbitration to break deadlocked On-Supply Agreement negotiations would have no impact on agreements reached in other milling districts.”

A commercially negotiated agreement remains the quickest way to achieve a result for growers in the Wilmar Sugar areas of Plane Creek, Proserpine, Burdekin and Herbert River.

CANEGROWERS notes that QSL and Wilmar have continued to negotiate and have agreed to meet with a mediator who was appointed by the Queensland Government on the day the LNP introduced its amendments into parliament.

“CANEGROWERS understands that there remain only a few sticking points and we urge the parties to resolve them as soon as possible,” Mr Galligan said.

“Every other milling company in Queensland has successfully negotiated supply agreements with QSL, only Wilmar Sugar has been unable to do this.

“There is a high level of anxiety in the Wilmar milling areas as growers watch their crop grow without a contract in place to realise its value as raw sugar.

“Local economies in many sugar-dependent towns are suffering as growers put off spending because they are unsure of their income for 2017.

“Growers and their communities need the certainty that will come from a speedy resolution to this process.”