||Issue No. 213||19 March 2004|
Pay For View
Interview: Baby Bust
Safety: Dust To Dust
Bad Boss: Shaming in Print
National Focus: Work's Cripplin' Us
International: Bulk Bullies
History: The Battle for Kelly's Bush
Economics: Aid, Trade And Oil
Review: The Art Of Work
Poetry: Sew His Lips Together
Tom On Drink
Howard Screws Vets
Sugar: Sweet Taste of Survival
AMWU state secretary, Andrew Dettmer, met premier Peter Beattie in Brisbane on Friday to brief him on a fightback campaign endorsed by delegates from sugar towns at a special conference that considered the impact of Australia bending over to the US during "free trade" negotiations.
Despite assurances from deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, that no sugar access would mean no deal, his Government is now pushing a Free Trade agreement that offers no increased access to the heavily subsidised American market.
Instead, Government is meeting farmer and millers in Canberra and talking about paying them to exit an industry depended on by most of rural north Queensland.
Ayr, population 8000, for example, is a sugar town, surrounded by five mills. The same is true of most settlements from Mackay to north of Cairns. Thirty seven thousand Queenslanders are directly employed in the sugar industry.
Dettmer said sugar workers were "furious" they had been frozen out of Government discussions on the industry's future.
They invited farmer and industry reps to their McKay conference and have proposed a "united front" response, directed at saving dozens of Queensland sugar towns.
"The Howard Government only wants to talk to millers and selected cane growers," Dettmer said. "Bad luck, this is a community issue and we will involve the communities.
Dettmer says sugar has a future but it depends on good will, an all-party approach, and political support that has not been forthcoming from Canberra.
The international market, he argues, has been artificially suppressed by countries like Brazil and Thailand opting to make suguar a "loss leader", and massive US subsidies.
Certainly, he argues, the first two circumstances cannot continue indefinitely.
AMWU delegates have recognised problems the Queensland sugar industry has to grapple with. Last week they identified archaic cropping regimes, depleted plant, a lack of investment and economies of scale as key issues.
Conference attendees have committed themselves to organising meetings of local stakeholders, and community forums, as the first step in their fightback campaign.
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