Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan has warned economic policy leaders across Australia to stop listening to the propaganda spread by multinational sugar giant Wilmar International and actually get informed about the unique challenges confronting the Australian sugar supply chain.
Senator O’Sullivan said a year-long Senate inquiry, which had been attended by thousands of growers and included input from the millers, had found in favour of protecting the economic interests of family farms in the sugar industry.
He said cane growing regions across Queensland and Northern NSW were sick and tired of the misinformation being spread by Wilmar and the lack of serious engagement from some economic policy leaders.
“For more than two years, myself and my National party colleagues have been repeatedly forced to try and explain the unique challenges in the sugar industry that prevent a free and fair market,” Senator O’Sullivan said.
“Sugar cane is a very unique commodity. Once sugar cane is harvested, it must be processed at a mill within 15 hours or else it is worthless.
“This has meant the sugar industry’s structure has developed into a single mill servicing hundreds of surrounding farms.
“There is no competition in the milling sector. These mills control regionally based monopolies. Growers have no choice where they send their cane to be processed.
“But while we do not have the option of increasing competition in the milling sector, we are able to ensure growers have a real choice in the marketing of their two-thirds economic interest in the sugar.
“It seems no matter how many times we explain these simple facts about our sugar industry it falls on deaf ears among the economic dries across the nation.
“This week FIRB chair Brian Wilson has emerged from his Christmas break to claim multinational sugar milling corporations are being treated as second class citizens.
“These bizarre comments firstly suggest Mr Wilson is completely out of touch with ordinary Australians and secondly, prove he is allowing his blind ideological zeal for the free market to bypass any sensible consideration of the facts.
“Mr Wilson shows a complete lack of understanding of the sugar industry and yet still feels the need to share his ill-informed thoughts in the national media.
“I extend an open invitation for Mr Wilson to accompany me across sugar producing regions in my state and Queensland so he can learn first-hand about the unique challenges of the industry.
“There are also reports that late last year the Productivity Commission has handed a yet to be tabled report to Treasurer Scott Morrison that recommends the 2015 Sugar Industry (Real Choice in Marketing) Amendment Act legislation be overturned.
“My government must be very careful about how it responds to such a dangerous recommendation or else there will be open revolt from Queensland rural MPs.”
Senator O’Sullivan said the Australian people expected its leaders to govern according to the national interest.
“The so-called multinational corporate “second class citizens” must learn that our first commitment is to deliver public policy that is in the best interests of the Australian people,” he said.
“We have spent two years in open warfare with Wilmar to protect the interests of our cane growers and we will never take a backward step in this fight. We will continue to shout the true facts about this industry until our throats are hoarse and sore.
“It is time for Wilmar to accept the legislative arrangements that have been put into place and finalise its supply contracts with Queensland Sugar Limited.”