THE Senate has rejected a push to scuttle the Sugar Code of Conduct introduced by the Turnbull-Joyce Government in April .
The code provides for pre-contract arbitration where mill owners and marketers and canegrowers and millers cannot reach agreement. It also guarantees canegrowers choice in marketers.
The code had been vigorously opposed by some millers and the Palaszczuk government, which argued the code had a negative impact on milling companies and ultimately stifled the profitability of the industry.
NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm raised a disallowance motion in the Senate in mid-August on the basis the code created needless government interference in commercial markets.
However, Sen Leyonhjelm was sent packing yesterday. His disallowance motion was resoundingly beaten 37 votes to 19 with the Coalition, Greens, One Nation and the Nick Xenophon Teamsiding together, along with independents Lucy Gichuhi and Jacqui Lambie.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the Coalition marshalled senators from across the political divide to deny a Labor–Senator Leyonhjelm push to repeal the code.
“The Coalition introduced the sugar code to give Australia’s canegrowers certainty that they would be able to negotiate contracts with mills and marketers in a fair environment,” Mr Joyce said.
Senator Barry O’Sullivan said the motion to repeal the sugar code would have had severe detrimental impacts on growers, leaving them at the mercy of multi-national companies.
“Federal Labor and Queensland Labor have been waging a war on canegrowers and it is very disappointing to see the ALP support an attempt to rip away this important protection,” Sen O’Sullivan said.
“At every step along the way, Queensland Labor has fought our efforts to ensure our cane growers are guarded against the power imbalances that exist in the sugar supply chain.
“It has taken the Coalition to once again be the leaders in standing up for our hard working cane growing families and the rural and regional communities that are dependent on this important industry.”
Queensland opposition agriculture spokesman Dale Last said the code of conduct was needed to bring fairness to negotiations between growers and sugar milling companies holding regional milling monopolies.
“The defeat of David Leyonhjelm’s cheap stunt in the Federal Senate is good news for Queensland cane farmers, their families and their communities,” Mr Last said.
“The Federal Coalition and the Queensland LNP will continue to stand up for family farmers against any unjust practices in the milling industry, a sector dominated by foreign-owned, multi-nationals holding overwhelming regional monopoly powers.
“In stark contrast, Labor and the Greens have done their best to sell Queensland farmers and their families down the river by siding with Senator Leyonhjelm.
“None of them understand the industry, or what the Code really does in terms of requiring cane supply contracts to be negotiated in good faith and with all parties - growers and millers and marketers - acting reasonably, fairly and honestly, without intimidation.
“Importantly, the code also provides a mechanism for arbitration should negotiations break down – something Labor’s union supporters wouldn’t leave home without.”