December 3rd 2005

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: HIGHER EDUCATION: Top university accused of elitism

EDITORIAL: Trade talks: smoke and mirrors

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Workplace changes set to change societal fabric

SCHOOLS: Vouchers for schools - giving parents choice

PRIMARY PRODUCTION: Advantages of single-desk for Australian wheat

SUGAR DEREGULATION: Beattie to abolish single selling-desk

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Working women and pensions / One hand washes another: European-style / Those were the days, my friend / The burning Bush

ABORTION PILL: Part of the disease, not part of the cure

OPINION: The difficult dilemma of Australia's Muslims

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Why North Korea got one more chance

CULTURE AND SOCIETY: Great Russian writers on the riddle of humanity

CINEMA: Three Australian films fall flat: The Proposition, Jewboy and Little Fish

BOOKS: The Lost Executioner: A Story of the Khmer Rouge, by Nic Dunlop

BOOKS: Victoria Cross: Australia's Finest and the Battles They Fought, by Anthony Staunton

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Beattie to abolish single selling-desk

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, December 3, 2005
The Queensland Government's move to abolish single-desk marketing for sugar will greatly disadvantage canegrowers - the weakest group in the sugar supply chain, reports Pat Byrne.

The Queensland Government has moved to abolish the single selling-desk for sugar, removing the last vestige of market power farmers had to gain a premium return on sugar produced from their cane.

The Bill to abolish the single-desk marketing agency, known as Queensland Sugar Limited, and to deregulate the market for sugar is expected to go before the Queensland Parliament as News Weekly goes to press.

Losing the single desk means that, rather than QSL being the single marketing agency onto the domestic and world market, where its market power allows it to gain a premium price, Australian sugar-mills will compete with each other to sell their sugar into the same market. The effect will be to see mills bid down the price of sugar into Australia's traditional markets. Then farmers will receive less for their cane.

Not required by NCP

Abolition of the single selling-desk was not required by the 1996 National Competition Policy review of the sugar industry. It found that there was a public benefit in keeping the desk, whose function was due for review in 2006-07.

But the Queensland Government has proceeded with deregulation, regardless. It has the joint support of the Milling Council, representing the sugar mills and, astonishingly, the Canegrowers Board, which is the largest farmer group in the industry.

In 2003, the board insisted that defending the single desk was "a die in the ditch" issue for farmers. But instead of a sustained campaign to defend the interests of its farmers, it has rolled over to deregulation.

With no arbitration system to guarantee farmers a fair price and no single desk, farmers - the weakest group in the sugar supply chain - stand to see their share of the sugar price diminish further.

  • Pat Byrne

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