A far Northern MP has urged the Federal Government to back cane farmers amid a fresh challenge to controversial sugar marketing laws.
Debate over Member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth’s Bill has reignited after a Productivity Commission draft report into the regulation of agriculture found the legislation was likely to restrict competition and deter investment in milling capacity.
The laws aimed to give farmers more choice in who marketed their product, but if a commercial contract cannot be agreed, cane growers and millers are forced into arbitration.
The Palaszczuk Government has demanded the Commonwealth request the National Competition Council to assess the “anti-competitive” provisions of the legislation, passed with support from independent Cook MP Billy Gordon and the LNP.
Mr Knuth has accused the commission of taking a “pro-government position”.
“I’m putting up a challenge to the Federal Government to ensure that there is no undoing of the Bill that gives a choice in marketing and that is pro-competition,” he said.
“I do believe no matter what happens here, this will stand up and if it doesn’t, it makes a mockery of the competition laws.”
The Australian Sugar Milling Council claims fewer than half of Queensland growers had secured cane supply agreements since the legislation was introduced, while Mr Knuth shifted the blame to millers.
“The millers are sulking because it gives a choice now, rather than them using bullying tactics and forcing growers to market with them rather than (the industry-owned) QSL,” he said.