Wednesday, 4 May 2016
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the Australian sugarcane industry is one of Australia's largest and most important rural industries with sugarcane being Queensland's largest agricultural crop,
(ii) around 85 per cent of the raw sugar produced in Queensland is exported and generates up to $2 billion in export earnings,
(iii) the majority of mills in Australia are foreign owned and Australian grower groups are concerned about the monopoly powers of mills to misuse their market power against Australian sugarcane growers, particularly in response to changes to the industry from 2017 which may see large foreign owned milling companies taking control of the Australian sugar marketing sector, and
(iv) the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee report Current and future arrangements for the marketing of Australian sugar, tabled in June 2015, recommended the development and implementation of a mandatory sugar industry code of conduct;
(b) acknowledges that Australian sugarcane growers are urgently seeking implementation of a national industry code of conduct to protect them from large resourced companies exercising monopoly powers to dictate the commercial relationship between millers and growers, the installation of a commercial arbitration facility to support them to resolve issues with mills, and the ability to select a sugar marketing organisation of their choice; and
(c) calls on the Federal Government to support Australian sugarcane growers, to act on the recommendation in the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee report, and to work with industry as a matter of urgency to:
(i) develop and implement a code of conduct,
(ii) establish a national commercial arbitration service,
(iii) provide Australian canegrowers with the flexibility to select sugar marketing organisations of their choice, and
(iv) establish a national support service for Australian canegrowers.
The coalition does not support this motion because the matters have been addressed, as is appropriate, by the Queensland Parliament. The government established a task force chaired by George Christensen from the other place to look into sugar marketing arrangements and an industry code of conduct. The outcomes of that task force have been overtaken by the passage of amendments to the Queensland Sugar Industry Act 1999 on 2 December 2015.
Senator Lazarus is hypocritical in his behaviour towards the Queensland sugar industry. Senator Lazarus used his maiden speech to call for a sugar tax and again last week supported the introduction of a sugar tax. Senator Lazarus cannot claim to be the canegrower's friend one day and then also support the issues that would wreck this important Queensland sector on another. I suggest, Senator Lazarus, you put your last day in this place to better use.
Eighty-five per cent of sugar produced in this country is exported overseas. One in four children and two out of every three adults in this country are base. It is not the sugar that we are producing; it is the low-grade sugar that is coming into this country. I am a big supporter of the canegrowers and I have to be because people like the Nationals have washed their hands of them. They have absolutely washed their hands. They have shafted them with the ChAFTA; they will shaft them with the TPP. And if you want to know what is good for sugarcane growers, I will give you one word: ethanol. Make them grow ethanol. Beef up the ethanol that we put into petrol and the sugarcane industry would thrive. That is why I support the sugarcane growers.