Cane farmers far from ‘militant’, says Katter

Bob Katter Means BusinessKAP Leader andFederal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter has responded angrily today to comments made by the State Agricultural Minister on radio that cane farmers were ‘militant’ in their approach to achieving long term solutions for the viability of the sugar cane industry.

The issue of sugar pricing has been on the agenda in Queensland since one of Queensland’s biggest sugar groups announced its intention to break away from the current independent marketing and pricing body, Queensland Sugar Limited, meaning farmers would be left no choice but to accept the price allocated.

“For the State Agricultural Minister to say that cane farmers are militant – people like myself only wish they were,” Mr Katter said.

“Can you describe as militant a request that farmers have equal bargaining rights to an unquestionably monopolistic sugar mill and its owner?

“For a comment like this to come out of the Labor Party, which is founded on the workers’ battle to get an arbitrated price for their labour, is astounding.

“This Minister clearly has no understanding of his portfolio or his industry, he has no understanding that a farmer should have the same rights.”

Mr Katter said that sugar cane farmers were particularly vulnerable to a monopolistic arrangement given the lack of an ability to store or hold over their product.

“A sugar cane farmer only has only one mill to sell to. Unlike grain or wool or cattle, he can’t store or hold over his product, he either harvests it in the year of growth or he loses the crop.”

But the Federal Government now looks as though it may weigh into the debate.

“When the Federal LNP Agricultural Minister is backing the right to arbitration, it is a most extraordinary turn of events,” Mr Katter said.

“We would therefore plead with the Deputy Premier Trad, who prides herself on her socialist values, to shoulder her responsibilities here.

“We remain confident that through cooperation the Sugar Industry (Real Choice In Marketing) Amendment Bill 2015 introduced by Shane Knuth will receive the support of Bill Gordon MP, who represents major sugar growing areas in Mossman and Mareeba, as well as the LNP under Mr Springborg’s leadership,” Mr Katter said.​

Earlier this year the KAP introduced a Bill into the Queensland Parliament that ensures cane farmers across Queensland have a choice in marketing their own product and retain existing market arrangements.

The legislation follows extensive consultation by Mr Katter, Shane Knuth MP and Robbie Katter MP including community meetings held in Innisfail and Ingham in April and attended by hundreds of people including leading cane growing groups Australian Cane Farmers Association and Canegrowers, peak ethanol industry body Biofuels Australia, the AWU, local farmers and community members.