Thursday, 1 December 2016
Wilmar Sugar Australia Ltd
I rise today to remind the House that there is a serious issue, as yet unresolved, facing local sugarcane growers in my electorate of Capricornia. I refer to a David and Goliath battle: a long, drawn-out dispute between canegrowing families in the Sarina district and the multinational company Wilmar. The matter relates to pitiful contracts offered by Wilmar to market their sugar. Today I call on Wilmar to strike a fair deal with sugarcane growers in the Sarina district before Christmas.
Only this week, executives from the controversial Singapore company visited Parliament House in Canberra for meetings with the agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce. This drawn-out dispute over sugar marketing rights between Wilmar and local canefarmers has gone on far too long, causing local families great stress. I call on Wilmar to man up and bring an amicable solution to the sugar contract stand-off before Christmas to give local farmers and the general district a sense of relief and certainty ahead of the new year.
It is time for the international company to play nice. Now is the time for Wilmar to stop holding local canefarmers to ransom and end the sugar contract crisis. We need them to address the terms sheet and commit to a fair on-supply agreement with local canegrowers. Some canegrowers do not have a satisfactory marketing agreement going into 2017. Today I go as far as warning Wilmar that if they do not play fair with the livelihoods of growers, then federal MPs could be forced to push for a federal code of conduct for sugar marketing companies. There are a lot of federal Queensland LNP MPs and senators fed up with the stalemate and uncertainty Wilmar is responsible for. If Wilmar will not play ball, then a code of conduct would be a serious option MPs would consider pushing through in legislation.
I am also interested to see the outcome of a current investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the ACCC, into the competitive behaviour of Wilmar in the local sugar sector. Wilmar executives are on short notice today. MPs like myself are fed up with their games, which are impacting on the lives of local families. They need to find a fair solution by Christmas. Sugar is the second major agriculture industry in Capricornia. Local sugar families contribute much to communities such as Sarina and deserve a fair go from Wilmar.