Senate debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Regulations and Determinations

Competition and Consumer (Industry Code — Sugar) Regulations 2017; Disallowance

5:56 pm

Photo of Barry O'SullivanBarry O'Sullivan (Queensland, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

My apologies. I have trouble with long names. I like Senator Leyonhjelm and I've had cooperation with him since I have been here. But I will not tolerate any senator coming in here and attacking the agricultural base of these great families, 4,500 of them, who have provided enormous input to the economy of my state and the economy of this nation. These are decent family men and women. You go there; these are real family communities. These are places where the kids often work on the farm, or not far away, and there are four or five generations involved in the development of sugar. And I'll say to any senator that wants to attack it front on: I won't sleep until I defend these farmers at every level; and if I have to default, if someone has to be favoured, it will be the farmers.

The big boys, the Wilmars, one of the biggest processors in the world, can look after themselves. I don't want to attack Wilmar. They're a company and I'm always very cautious in this place not to do reputational damage to corporations. But one of the telling questions was that Wilmar wanted to enter the marketplace and have the right to sell the sugar of these growers—and they have been granted that right. The old single desk that was around, QSL, was expanded. So Wilmar can, if they choose, entice the growers to allow them to market their sugar, to pick up this other premium that they think is there to be had. But why don't the sugar growers use them? Because there's been a complete and absolute collapse of trust in Wilmar over the last three or four years as these dealings evolved. They don't trust them. They understand that, if they go off there for a fortnight, it's like having a new girlfriend and leaving the wife at home. If QSL is not there, at the end of the day we do have a single desk, a Wilmar desk, controlling the ports and the logistics—and that's when you know you've got trouble. That's when you've got 'farm gate'. That's when you have those little railway lines that go off to the mill and come back still full of cane.

So we will be vigilant on this while ever we're in power. I really appreciate the support of One Nation. I have to correct my colleague, Senator Williams. I think he was a bit hasty in jumping on the Greens. I don't know what the Greens will do with this vote. But there was an indication earlier today when they supported bringing this on and restoring stability into the sugar industry for sugar growers.

I want to close by saying this. My message to Wilmar is: look straight down the barrel. You're not the only one that's patient. You're not the only one that knows how to exercise power. It's a long way between now and when you cripple our sugar industry. It's a long way between now and when you get sole power over this important industry. The message to you is clear: it won't matter whether I'm here, whether Senator Hanson and her colleagues are here or whether Senator Williams is here, our side of politics will continue to protect the interests and integrity of industries that are so important to so many thousands of our families, so many hundreds of our communities, from now until the end of time. So, Wilmar, if you don't like those circumstances, pack your bags and go to Brazil or somewhere else.


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