House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2018


Leichhardt Electorate: Mossman Mill

7:44 pm

Photo of Warren EntschWarren Entsch (Leichhardt, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise tonight to highlight a transformational project within my electorate. The Mossman Mill has been a feature in the local landscape for more than a century. In 1897, Annie Rose fed the first sugarcane into the mill, with the mill producing its first sugar after crushing 27,905 tonnes of cane for its initial season. Fast-forward a century to today, and the mill supports more than 520 local jobs and is the lifeblood of Mossman, a small community on the doorstep to the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest. However, the Mossman Mill faced an uncertain future. The mill's owner, Mackay Sugar Limited, planned to close the mill in November, at the end of the current crushing season. It was unable to contend with crippling debt in excess of $180 million. That would have signalled the end of the Mossman community, along with 560 local jobs. The mill's closure would have had a profound impact on the 380 business services in the Mossman area as well as the 12 schools and childcare centres, 33 community and sporting organisations and nine welfare groups. I highly doubt many of them would have survived if the mill had closed.

A determined group of growers, led by Maryann Salvetti, stepped in and devised a plan to ensure the future of the mill and, more importantly, the region. They realised that doing nothing was not an option. Three grower groups—Mossman CANEGROWERS, the Australian Cane Farmers Association and Tableland CANEGROWERS—formed an alliance to secure the mill's future. The new alliance, Far Northern Milling, had a vision to buy back the historic mill and pave its future as a clean energy powerhouse for the Daintree Bio Precinct. This project would transform not only the mill but also the region through technology and innovation.

These growers have skin in the game. They invested their own money in the project but needed assistance from all levels of government. However, time was running out as the crushing season neared its end, and the mill was days away from closing unless funding could be secured. I'm proud to say that the Australian government has stepped in and announced a $20 million commitment, subject to the completion of a positive business case and a significant contribution from the Queensland Labor government. Douglas Shire Council also chipped in with $250,000 to help Far Northern Milling cover the cost of acquiring the mill, and I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank the mayor, Julia Leu, for her unwavering support and advocacy for this project. I'd also like to thank the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann, who saw value in this project. More importantly, the vote of confidence from these three shows the Australian government backs our farmers and our agriculture industry.

The only party that hasn't come to the table in support of this job-creating project is the Queensland Labor government. A further $16 million from the Queensland government is required to see this project become a reality. They've been completely silent on the issue and they've left the project in a state of flux, in spite of the fact that it was Queensland's department of state development that actually encouraged the growers to go down this track. In fact, the state bureaucrats are doing their utmost to ensure the project will not meet its deadline. Furthermore, the Queensland Labor government has told Far Northern Milling that it has no interest in funding the actual mill.

Sadly, the local member, the member for Cook, Cynthia Lui, has been missing in action on the issue. She has all but turned her back on the Mossman community. She was more than happy some time ago to smile for the cameras, beat her chest and say the Australian government should offer financial assistance to the mill, but, when push came to shove, she didn't deliver her end of the bargain. She should hang her head in shame for her utter silence on the issue. It is widely known that Ms Lui has been a bitter disappointment to the communities that elected her only a year ago.

The Australian government and the Douglas Shire Council have stepped up to the plate; the Queensland government have not. Their refusal to support this project has placed it in jeopardy. If this project falls over because of the Queensland Labor government, mark my words, I will personally ensure every resident in Mossman and the Douglas shire region knows who's to blame. It's time for the Queensland government to back our farmers and primary producers. Talk is cheap. It's time for them to stand up and commit, given that they're the ones who introduced this in the first instance. They were the ones who called on the federal government, through me, to deliver the support. We've done that. It's now time for them to stand up and deliver.


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