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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4989

Mr NEVILLE (HinklerThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (19:04): I support the excellent motion of the member for Dawson on the sugar industry. Since Louis Hope grew the first sugar cane at Ormiston near Brisbane in 1864 we have seen the sugar industry grow from Far North Queensland, north of Mossman, all the way to Coffs Harbour. It has condensed over recent years from Mossman down to the Northern Rivers, but it is a major crop and certainly a major crop in Queensland. There are a few statistics to confirm that. Australia is the third largest raw sugar supplier in the world. Sugar is the seventh largest agricultural export from Australia, and 80 per cent of the product from the crop is exported. Its value to Australia is up to $2 billion a year. We crush 30 to 35 million tonnes of cane for four to 4½ million tonnes of raw sugar, and that supports 4,000 farmers, 24 sugar mills and six bulk sugar shipping terminals. In addition to that we have distilleries, including for the famous Bundaberg Rum, referred to earlier, which the girls drink as well as the boys, and we also have various refineries at Bundaberg, Mackay and elsewhere.

The sugar industry is part of the fabric of all those cities and towns along the coast. It has been the basis of irrigation schemes that the Bjelke-Petersen government set up in many places during its term in office. There was a dam being built every 18 months. In my area we have the Paradise Dam and the Monduran Dam. Bundaberg has not the biggest irrigation scheme in Australia but the most intensive. It supports sugar cane and small crop farms. You can see what the value of that would be from the figures I have just provided. However, we find now, with this abundant amount of water, with these canals and pipes, this intricate system of irrigation, that the price of electricity has got to a point where, for example, spray irrigation is no longer sustainable. The farmers cannot afford to irrigate their crops. What a nonsense. Australia has built all these marvellous dams, and now we have lifted our power costs so high that people cannot afford to use the water.

Power has gone up 250 per cent in Queensland since 2000—12½ per cent a year. What is worse is that it is going to go up 17½ per cent a year for the next seven years. That is going to put irrigation out of the range of most farmers. They have come to members of parliament and asked that irrigation tariffs 62, 65 and 66 have the network component removed to bring the price of those three tariffs down to something more reasonable. Instead of 17½ per cent and 12½ per cent per year, power prices would go up by the increase in the consumer price index. It is crazy to think that we have allowed such a marvellous industry to be brought to its knees because of the price of power in this country. It is a blot on the previous state government that it has got to this.

The member for Lyons in his presentation made a very good point: sugar used properly and in moderation is good. It is important for the canning industry, the food industry, the confectionary industry and the liquor industry. All of them require sugar. We need to make sure that these products are consumed properly. CSR is making LoGiCane, which is a product with a low glycaemic index, and it releases its energy slowly so it lessens hunger cravings and so on. The Isis Central mill has a product called Queensland high pol sugar, which is a semi-raw sugar that is very popular and very healthy. So let us have an end to this denigration of sugar as a food product and let us support the farmers who are having a tough time. (Time expired)