Sen­a­tor caned on code

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

YOU have to won­der at the au­dac­ity of a sen­a­tor from NSW launch­ing a rear­guard at­tack on the sugar in­dus­try’s 4000 cane farm­ers and seek­ing to in­sert him­self into an is­sue which many, in­clud­ing my­self, have fought long and hard to re­solve.

I re­fer to Syd­ney- based Sen­a­tor David Ley­on­hjelm, who has put up a mo­tion in an at­tempt to stop the in­tro­duc­tion of a sugar mar­ket­ing code of con­duct.

This code seeks to pro­tect our cane farm­ers from the mo­nop­o­lis­tic and an­ti­com­pet­i­tive be­hav­iour of a for­eign- owned miller.

Ac­cord­ing to Sen­a­tor Ley­on­hjelm ( TB, Sept 14) the claims of cane grow­ers are an­ti­com­pet­i­tive and not le­git­i­mate. His help­ful ad­vice to grow­ers is to do “ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to at­tract new en­trants into milling” and to even in­vest their own money into do­ing so.

In pre­vi­ous ill- in­formed com­ments the good sen­a­tor has also ad­vised grow­ers who don’t like the deal be­ing of­fered by their miller to “hire a truck and send their crop 300 kilo­me­tres down the road”.

A week spent in North Queens­land dur­ing the crush might give him a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the in­dus­try he seeks to den­i­grate, and I re­peat my ear­lier sug­ges­tion that the sen­a­tor talk to grow­ers rather than at­tempt to dic­tate from afar what hap­pens to them and their liveli­hoods.

Now let’s clear up a few key points. The code of con­duct seeks to pro­tect the right of grow­ers to choose who mar­kets their sugar.

Nowhere in Sen­a­tor Ley­on­hjelm’s com­ments does he men­tion the other key player in this story and that is Queens­land Sugar Lim­ited ( QSL): the not­for- profit mar­keter of the in­dus­try’s sugar for the bet­ter part of a cen­tury.

Rather than the grow­ers be­ing anti- com­pet­i­tive, it has been Sin­ga­pore- owned Wil­mar who has sought to rob grow­ers of the abil­ity to con­tinue the time- hon­oured ar­range­ment of hav­ing QSL mar­ket their sugar. In Wil­mar- owned mills, and most of them are in my elec­torate, grow­ers were be­ing forced to ac­cept that a new Wil­mar mar­ket­ing arm would hence­forth mar­ket their sugar, and the sup­ply con­tracts which grow­ers must have were stip­u­lat­ing it.

Though this di­rectly af­fected about 1500 grow­ers who sup­ply to Wil­mar mills, other millers were poised to take the same stance if Wil­mar proved to be suc­cess­ful, so this was an is­sue

FREE CHOICE: Ge­orge Chris­tensen with Bur­dekin grower Phil Marano.

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