House debates

Monday, 27 February 2017

Statements by Members

North Queensland Sugar Industry

4:30 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The North Queensland sugar industry remains in limbo this afternoon after the foreign-owned miller Wilmar and sugar marketer QSL yet again failed to negotiate a deal at 9 am this morning. Without an on-supply agreement between Wilmar and QSL, farmers cannot exercise their right to choose who markets their sugar, a right guaranteed in the choice in marketing legislation enacted in the Queensland parliament last year.

Since the Singaporean miller announced its intention to extend its monopoly into sugar marketing, it has used every possible means to prevent choice in marketing to circumvent the Queensland law. Wilmar delayed today's 9 am meeting to 12.30 this afternoon and then cancelled that one as well.

The Queensland opposition will now submit legislation to parliament to force the parties into urgent arbitration so farmers can enter supply agreements for a crop they will be harvesting in just over three months. But, given Wilmar's past behaviour and its willingness to abuse its monopoly position to ride roughshod over farmers, a better solution is going to be needed in the long term.

I note the Deputy Prime Minister has given North Queensland canefarmers a commitment that he and his government will do whatever it takes to get a solution. When this issue was first raised in 2014, the Liberal-National government set up a taskforce chaired by me, and the recommendation coming out of that taskforce was to legislate a mandatory code of conduct for the industry. If Wilmar does not know what conduct is acceptable for business in Australia, I have got to say, we will spell it out for them.