Candidates urged to commit to grower choice sugar law
Top of mind for CANEGROWERS members as Queensland prepares to vote is protecting competition in raw sugar marketing services and the rights of farmers.
Grower choice and competition were secured in 2015 with a change to the Sugar Industry Act and new structures and contracts are in place for the 2017 season.
CANEGROWERS Herbert River Chairman Michael Pisano, who like other Ingham district growers has no choice but to send his sugarcane to the local Wilmar Sugar mills, says growers need to know the legislation will be maintained after the state election.
“We need a clear undertaking from all parties that they will honour the wishes of growers to have choice in marketing when they have no control over who mills their cane.
“The legislation does not deny any marketer, including the miller, the ability to market sugar but it does stop millers taking complete control.
“It would be very disappointing if we ended up with a government which doesn’t listen to farming families and chooses to end competition in favour of a monopoly situation.”
CANEGROWERS Burdekin Chairman Phil Marano says growers campaigned long and hard for grower choice.
“The legislation is very important to our industry,” he said. “It provides competition meaning we can shop around and choose best marketer for our own business situation whether it be the miller’s offering or the industry-owned QSL.
“Competition keeps everyone on their toes. We are not against a miller marketing grower economic interest sugar, but growers should not be forced to use them.”
The recent threat to the industry’s Code of Conduct in the Federal Parliament revealed that the legislation could be vulnerable.
The Labor Party voted with NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm in his attempt to abolish a Code that requires negotiations to be conducted reasonably, fairly and honestly without intimidation. Senators from other parties combined to keep the Code in place.
CANEGROWERS is calling for a clear statement from all parties that the hard-won grower choice state legislation will be maintained, whoever wins on 25 November.
Other commitments CANEGROWERS is seeking in the campaign include a cut electricity prices (by 33% on 2015-16 gazetted levels), a reform of the power tariff structure and support for industry-driven programs (such as Smartcane BMP) rather than regulation as the best way to achieve water quality outcomes for the Great Barrier Reef.