Sugar industry needs rule book

MARCH 10, 2017: THE sudden collapse of arbitration between Burdekin District Cane Growers Limited (BDCG) and Wilmar Sugar has provided further proof of the need for Federal intervention via a Mandatory Code of Conduct.

What the industry needs is a rule book and I’m determined to provide it.

The arbitration process, which has ended, came about as a result of amendments to the Queensland Sugar Industry Act which was pushed through State Parliament by the LNP and Katter’s Australia Party in 2015.

As a result of legal arguments put forward by Wilmar about the constitutional validity of those amendments, the arbitrator determined that the amendments made to the Sugar Industry Act were beyond the legislative scope of the Queensland Parliament, which effectively shut down the arbitration.

While the Queensland Sugar Industry Act amendments were initially welcomed, the reality is that now they are near-useless, meaning federally something will have to be done.

We have had the bizarre situation where the arbitrator appointed to provide mandatory pre-contract arbitration for Wilmar and BDCG has chosen to investigate the law that brought about his appointment and make his own ruling on that law.

There were two components to the amendments to the Queensland Sugar Industry Act; the growers’ right to choice in marketing and the provision of arbitration. This affects the latter.

The arbitrator, and not a court of law, has deemed the amendment to provide for pre-contract arbitration between millers and growers invalid, and he’s effectively dismissed himself from the role he was appointed to.

What we now have is a law that while still being valid is completely unworkable.

It shows the necessity for federal intervention in the form of a Mandatory Code of Conduct that will sit under the framework of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and I’m hell-bent on seeing that introduced.

What’s played out over the last few years is a political and commercial mess in the sugar industry because there is no rule book.

A Code of Conduct would provide a clear set of rules and the umpire watching the game in play and enforcing the rules would be the ACCC.


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