The Australian Sugar Milling Council (ASMC) has commended the Katter Australia Party for adding its voice to calls to reduce State Government irrigation water charges by 25% and its offer to broker talks between Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and the sugar industry.
KAP Member for Hinchinbrook Mr Nick Dametto’s told State Parliament: “A 25 per cent reduction in state water tariffs will add $220 million to the Queensland economy, supporting jobs over the next four years, the equivalent of 11 AFL grand finals.”
ASMC Chief Executive Officer David Pietsch said the KAP commitment and its offer, in Parliament, to broker talks with the Premier on the critical issue of water prices was a positive development.
The Liberal National Party has also committed to cut irrigation water prices by 20 per cent.
“The Queensland sugar industry has ‘hung tough’ through this pandemic and we’re calling on the Government to invest in our sugar industry’s capacity to generate more jobs and more economic benefits for regional Queensland,” Mr Pietsch said.
Government froze irrigation water prices in May, but only for 2020/21. This follows an earlier recommendation by the Queensland Competition Authority for further substantial price increases in the regulated Water Supply Schemes that service the State’s cane fields. The Government has also said it will absorb $42 million worth of investment in safety upgrades to dams for the next 4 years.
The sugar industry says it needs certainty longer term, especially when full costs such as for the planned upgrade to the Burdekin Falls Dam will be passed on to irrigators.
Mr Pietsch said the Queensland sugar industry generated more than $4 billion to the Queensland economy each year and supported more than 23,000 jobs throughout the State yet faced significant challenges from higher input costs and government charges, increasing overseas competition and depressed global sugar prices.
“We can help Queensland back on the road to recovery and support the Premier’s focus on job creation, but not without a reduction in water pricing levels,” Mr Pietsch said.