Competition Policy killing cane-farmers (letter)by Carol MackeeNews Weekly
, September 10, 2005
Roger Kelly is mistaken in saying that the problem we cane-farmers have in getting a decent deal from CSR and Bundaberg Sugar mills has "nothing to do with the much-maligned National Competition Policy" (News Weekly
, August 27, 2005).
The previous statutory collective bargaining and compulsory arbitration régime between farmers and millers was our assurance of a fair price. Contained in Queensland's Sugar Industry Act
, that system was deemed to be contrary to the rules of National Competition Policy.
This was stated clearly in the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the Federal and Queensland Governments:
"The [two] Governments agree that the following areas appear to impede increased competitiveness and efficiency, and are detrimental to cultural change and innovation: the cane production area system; the statutory bargaining system; and the compulsory acquisition of raw sugar for marketing and selling within the domestic market.
"The Governments agree that there should be a joint approach to identify what legislative changes are required to remove these impediments."
In fact, the National Competition Council's August 2003 Assessment of government's progress in implementing the National Competition Policy and related reforms
(Vol 2) says it all.
That report states that because the Queensland Government had, among other things, introduced legislation to abolish the statutory bargaining system and provide for a "voluntary system of mediation and arbitration of disputes over agreements between growers and millers", it had "substantively implemented" its 1995 Competition Policy Agreement "obligations" (p.152).
Mr Kelly misses the point. Under the new deregulated system - forced on us by National Competition Policy - farmers have lost their effective bargaining power with proprietary mills, such as CSR and Bundaberg Sugar.Carol Mackee,