WHITSUNDAY MP Jason Costigan spoke in parliament last night about the sugar bill.
This is the transcript of his speech in parliament.
Mr COSTIGAN (Whitsunday-LNP) (8.29 pm): I am absolutely delighted to speak on this bill tonight. After all, coming from the sugar capital that is Mackay, the city that I represent, this is personal for me.
Mr Power: Poor old Proserpine!
Mr COSTIGAN: I will disregard the rot coming from the government members to my left.
This is personal for me. It is personal for many of my relatives. It is certainly personal for countless constituents, some of whom are in the gallery tonight.
Whether they are from Mackay, Proserpine or anywhere in between, I represent them all, regardless of who they vote for.
This is pretty important to me, and I make no apology for saying so.
Tonight they are watching from the gallery or on the World Wide Web and they are wondering if common sense will prevail in this chamber tonight.
Fundamentally, I believe in choice for the canegrower in relation to the marketing of sugar. We had hoped for a commercial based outcome, did we not?
But it did not eventuate. As individuals we all have a choice when it comes to going to the supermarket or following the sporting teams that we love or deciding who to vote for-and on it goes.
Why can the canefarmer not have choice when it comes to sugar marketing? Seriously, what is the problem with that? The LNP believes in competition.
It is my fear that competition here will dry up.
I can assure the cane-cockies who have come down to Brisbane tonight-they are up in the gallery, praying that we do get it right-that I have been very consistent in relation to these matters for some time.
In fact, I am proud to say that when Wilmar made its intentions clear to the world in April 2014 I was the first elected representative to go into the Wilmar office in Denham Street, Townsville and make it clear to John Pratt that I did not like what I heard and nor did my constituents.
I turn my attention to the Labor minister responsible for what many of my constituents still call primary industries. Just a couple of weeks ago the Minister for Agriculture referred to canegrowers being 'militant'. It was nothing short of disgraceful.
I call on the minister, regardless of what happens in this chamber, to apologise to the canegrowers of Queensland.
I can understand the North Korean government being described as militant and I can understand the member for Mirani's mates in the CFMEU being described as militant, but the poor old Queensland canegrower?
I can see it now: growers just picking up scones and hurling them into the minister's office. Sound the air-raid sirens!
Let us not forget: this is the same minister who was a no-show at the sugar industry's agricultural expo in Mackay this year. He also failed to show up at FarmFest on the Darling Downs-something noted by the member for Toowoomba South, who gave his all in the portfolio prior to the change of government.
The minister was also a no-show at the FNQ Field Days at Mareeba. I am sure the member for Dalrymple remembers it. He was there.
I was there. Where was the minister? It is poor form.
I can advise the House that the language used by the minister-that term 'militant'-was certainly noted at the recent AGM of Canegrowers Mackay. Guess what?
There was no apology from the member for Mirani, who was there, or the member for Mackay, who was also there. I understand that this was just the second time Labor's member for Mackay had attended an AGM of Canegrowers Mackay in the last 20-odd years. How is that for industry support?
In my electorate, from Foulden to Foxdale, home to many canegrowers over the generations, we would be lost without sugar. In the central district we have five mills, a cogeneration plant, the refinery at Racecourse, the ethanol plant at Sarina-and on it goes.
It has been our economic mainstay since the early days of European settlement.
Today we have more land under cane in that central district between Plane Creek and Proserpine than anywhere else including the Burdekin. Yes, we contribute still-big time-to Australia's $1.5 billion sugar industry.
That is something I am fiercely proud of.
This an industry that multinationals like Wilmar think they can hijack. How dare they come into this state and think they can change the fabric of our sugar industry? If they succeed, growers are denied choice in marketing.
They will turn our communities up and down the Queensland coast, from Bundaberg to Bloomsbury and Mackay to Mossman?
I say to Wilmar: if your marketing operation is so good, let the farmers come to you, but do not come here and change the culture of our industry.
What is next?
Taking control of our bulk sugar terminals. Let us not forget: these terminals were partly funded by the levies imposed on growers many moons ago.
Those growers will be turning in their graves at the sheer thought of that and the dictatorial approach of the multinationals when it comes to the marketing of our sugar.
I have here a book authored by the late Ken Manning, a famous name from Kolijo, killed in a tractor accident some years ago. It is the history of the Farleigh mill and is called In their own hands.
Tonight the future of our industry is in our hands.
This industry has seen plenty since John Spiller planted that first bit of cane in Mackay in 1865.
It has had its ups and downs. Tonight we reach a tipping point. We come to the crunch. Either we want a sugar industry to kick on, to attract the next generation of growers, or we say, 'No, let it go down the gurgler.'
I say: over my dead body. I support the principle of the bill.
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