SUGAR: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Sugar cane farmers rally to unite industry
, December 14, 2002
Over 3,500 sugar cane farmers and supporters recently marched through the streets of Townsville in protests at the plan of the Federal and Queensland governments to deregulate the industry.
The two governments are also putting up a $150 million adjustment package over four years, for an industry that is losing $400-$600 million a year since it was partly deregulated in 1996.
Angry farmers had earlier rallied at meetings along the Queensland coast against the joint government proposals, and in support of an alternate eight-point industry plan put forward by leading farmers who have formed a Cane Farmers Reform Committee.
The Townsville Bulletin
described the march as the largest rally ever held in the city.Speakers
The rally speakers included, Bob Katter, Independent member for Kennedy; Ross Walker, President of the Australian Cane Farmers Association; Peter Duffy, Townsville Chamber of Commerce President; Bill Micola, Australian Manager for Cameco (the cane harvester group); Robert Lyons, Queensland and Australian Mechanical Harvesters Association; Max Menzel, member of Canegrowers Board; and members of the Cane Farmers Reform Committee.
Letters of support came from Digger James, former RSL President, the business community in, Ingham, Townsville and the Burdekin, local government, sporting and media identities.
Local rugby league legends Laurie Spina and Martin Bella led the rally alongside former ALP MP, Ted Lindsey, and Bob Katter.
Many local businesses in the region closed their doors to support the rally.
Some farmers travelled from as far south as Maryborough (which is a day and a half by train) to attend the rally.
Organisers said that the rally was important for building unity across the industry and resolve among farmers to oppose deregulation.
According to one organiser, Margaret Menzel:
"This was not a rally to have farmers just let off steam. It was an important step in bringing the industry together to realize their political strength. Further action is now beginning to finally unite the industry and then launch a concerted assault on Brisbane and Canberra."