Fighting to keep grower safety net

Fighting to keep grower safety net

The Sugar Industry Code of Conduct, launched in April this year, is in danger of being disallowed unless a motion introduced by NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm is withdrawn or voted down in the Senate.

CANEGROWERS has sent a delegation to Canberra to meet with key Senators as it defends the Code and its protections for growers in future negotiations with mills.

"We met with representatives of the Liberal National Party, Labor, the Greens and many of the crossbench Senators," CANEGROWERS Chairman Paul Schembri said. "These discussions  were both constructive and encouraging.

"We know there has been wide support for the Code in Federal Parliament - the Labor Party, Liberals, Nationals and Greens acknowledged the need for a Code through their roles in a Senate Committee investigation into arrangements for the marketing of Australian sugar.

“It was the sole and unanimous recommendation in 2015 of the Rural and Regional Affairs Committee, chaired by WA ALP Senator Glenn Sterle, that a Code be developed and implemented for the sugar industry.

“The Code became a reality earlier this year and now we need all parties to reinforce their support.

“We are urging Senators to defeat Senator Leyonhjelm’s misinformed attempt to knock it down by putting misguided ideology ahead of what is needed in the real world.”

The Code prevents millers from abusing their regional monopoly power in supply contract negotiations with growers and their collectives.

It requires negotiations to be conducted in good faith with each party acting reasonably, fairly and honestly, without intimidation. It also provides a vital mechanism for independent arbitration should there be a deadlock.

“This Code doesn’t kick in until there is a problem – it is a safety net in a situation where one side of the negotiating table holds a lot more power than the other,” Mr Schembri said.

“We’ve written to Senator Leyonhjelm inviting him to Queensland to meet with growers to hear how important this Code is to growers and we are urging Senators to reject his attempt to destabilise the sugar industry.”

CANEGROWERS understands the motion is scheduled to be put to a vote on 17 October.