Dairy, citrus, potato, pineapple, prawn, fishing industries, motor vehicles, pulp, paper, fibre, fuel, plastics and more finished, now sugar
HINCHINBROOK MP Nick Dametto has urged the Federal Government to stand up for Australian cane farmers after India’s decision to dump millions of tonnes of subsidised sugar on the world market.
The Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) MP, whose electorate is home to a sugar industry worth more than $300 million a year, said India’s actions were a kick in the guts for local cane farmers.
“This is a disgraceful decision by India at a time when our producers are already dealing with a poor world sugar price below the cost of production,” he said.
“It is not a level playing field when India’s sugar industry is getting the equivalent of an $850 million government assistance package, including help to export their product,” he said.
Mr Dametto’s call for action was backed up by KAP leader and Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter who was also furious at the situation.
“Our country will not survive continuing to be what economist Trevor Sykes called the “only virgin in the brothel,” Mr Katter said.
“Most of my last speeches in Parliament have been what I’ve hoped are fierce attacks upon the hypocrisy of free trade; upon our industry representative organisations particularly in agriculture.
All we’ve got out of these bodies in Canberra is a clapping of hands for every free trade deal.
“What country on earth free trades?”
Mr Katter also cast doubt on the willingness of industrial countries like China or India to be transparent when it came to playing by the rules on free trade.
“Does anyone seriously believe that China or India free trade?” he said.
“The damage done by deregulation has been colossal. The damage was done by national Liberal governments. The National Competition Policy was forced upon the states by the Federal Government. I know this because I was then in that Federal Government and this was one of the major reasons I left.
“Before deregulation, the sugar producer was receiving $473 a tonne and the price to the consumer was $1040 a tonne (104c per/kg). A mark-up of around 100 per cent.
The “current price” to the producer is $317 per tonne and the price on the shelf is $1750 per tonne ($1.75 per/kg). That’s nearly a 600 per cent mark up.
“The supermarket chains have said “thank you, we love you Mr Government. You have enabled us now to charge the consumers a 600 per cent mark-up instead of a 100 percent mark-up”.
“American farmers get paid for sugar around $600 a tonne, French farmers’ $700 tonne, Thailand farmers around $450 a tonne, and Australian farmers, $317 a tonne. We have the most poorly paid sugar farmers in the world and that is the outcome of government free-market policies.
Mr Katter said free trade had ravaged multiple agricultural industries in Australia, pointing to the US Free Trade Agreement as an example.
“The American free trade deal was about dairy, beef and sugar. The value to dairying was quoted as one free ice-cream a week for each farmer. The cattle industry has always had a fairly good deal on access and the sugar industry was wiped like a dirty rag. It got nothing.
“Mark Vaile, the then National Party Minister for Trade, said before a negotiations started, “There would be no deal unless sugar was included”. To call anyone in the National Party a liar is not really correct, they are actually jokes. They are not the beer in the bottle; they’re the label that tells you how good the beer is.
“When Tony Abbott rose to his feet to congratulate Andrew Robb on securing the free trade deal with China, all the Liberals and their flunkies – the Nationals – stood up and gave a standing ovation. I said to the MP next door to me, “Abbott just wrote his own death warrant”.
“A couple of months later, he was gone.
“What they don’t tell you on beef, is yes, you can get beef into the US free of tariffs (around two per cent), but the USA beef subsidy is around 30 per cent. Under the Free Trade Agreement, it stays.
“The subsidy in India on ‘fertiliser alone’ was, when I last looked, $2.3 billion a year. The Indians believe in cheap food for their people, and quite rightly so. The ALP and LNP believe in free trade – yeah, for the supermarket giants.
“But clearly not in cheap food for the people.”
Singapore-owned Wilmar Sugar refuses to pay cane growers fair price.
Thanks to the Liberal National Party cane farmers cannot go to arbitration because the LNP removed the clause from Shane Knuth’s bill.
19 February 2017: KAP Federal Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter and State Member for Dalrymple, Shane Knuth MP today, in the Burdekin town of Ayr, attended a meeting with cane farmers to end the sugar marketing stalemate with Singaporean based company Wilmar.
In 2015 Mr Knuth introduced into the QLD Parliament the Sugar Industry (Real Choice in Marketing) Amendment Act 2015 giving an estimated 4,500 cane growing families choice in who they market with – the Bill passed with the support of the LNP and Independent Member for Cook. It was the second KAP Private Members Bill to become legislation and came within 24 hours of passing the ethanol mandate.
“The outcome of the meeting today still does not give clarity because there is no manoeuvre by the Federal Government to introduce a Code of Conduct,” Mr Knuth said.
“The numbers in the QLD Parliament have not been secured by the LNP, as yet, to get any amendments to the sugar marketing legislation. But as I did in the past when we drafted this legislation – working with the LNP and Canegrowers – we will be doing the same to ensure effective changes can take place,” Mr Knuth pledged.
Mr Katter whose electorate of Kennedy is highly reliant on sugar, was critical of the LNP for removing the final arbitration from the KAP legislation.
“The State representatives who were there today – we are only in this hole, without any cane supply agreements (no contracts between farmers and millers), because the LNP took out the clauses for final arbitration – where the referees decision is final. That was in there and the LNP took it out. We didn’t have the numbers without the LNP so it had to go through QLD Parliament without that clause,” Mr Katter said.
“With all of the QLD State LNP seats now in serious doubt and vulnerable to attacks from KAP and PHON, we might be able to get the QLD State LNP more scared of us than their corporate masters.
“George Christensen has crossed the floor on ethanol. His crossing the floor on ethanol was an act of very great courage and I think he has played a key role in convincing the Feds to stop them from intervening and overturning the sugar marketing legislation.
“The LNP today says ‘we believe in a competitive market and when it doesn’t work we intervene’. Fancy saying that when they (the LNP) introduced the deregulation.
“Statements about ‘we believe in competition setting the market price’. What an appalling statement! Do you believe the market sets the price of milk with only two buyers in there? Or the price of apples, bananas, oranges or sugar?
“The two giant supermarket chains set the market price. Sugar has a 400% mark-up on the price for refined sugar that the industry gets paid.
“Our second underlying problem is the world sugar market price is set by Brazil and they have over the last 16-17 years received $420 a tonne, and I doubt whether we have got $360 a tonne. We can’t survive on $360 a tonne average price.
“George Christensen no doubt was instrumental in getting the Deputy Prime Minister to stop any intervention from Canberra to overturn the Sugar Marketing legislation. Farmers and every worker in Australia should be entitled to arbitration. Thanks to KAP for introducing the legislation, at least one industry now has arbitration.
“We thank the Deputy Prime Minister for listening to George Christensen on this issue,” Mr Katter ended.