Call for candidates to commit to supporting Bingera staff
BUNDABERG region Mayor Jack Dempsey says Bundaberg Sugar's decision to close Bingera Mill reflects the ongoing transition away from sugarcane into other higher-value crops.
While not coming as a surprise, Mayor Dempsey said the State Government needed to support mill workers and farmers.
He said with the State Election being held on Saturday, candidates and parties should deliver a jobs package to assist workers.
"We're seeing a number of solutions being put forward for Maryborough but now we need a jobs package for Bundaberg," he said.
Bundaberg Regional Council and Bundaberg Sugar made a joint submission to the State Government in August last year seeking a structural transition package for the local sugar industry to diversify, add value and secure jobs.
Mayor Dempsey wrote to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with a proposal to enhance the long-term future of the industry and provide future jobs growth.
"Similar to the $45 million that was pledged by the state and federal governments in Far North Queensland, we asked that support be provided by the State Government for the Bundaberg Region sugarcane industry," he said.
"We asked the state to establish a structural transition capital fund to support capital investment projects necessary to grow and transition into new sectors, products and commercial opportunities.
"Such a fund would create new jobs new, sustainable, high-value jobs in diversified sectors, including bio futures."
Speaking in Bundaberg yesterday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Rum City had the opportunity to capitalise on the State Government's investment in hydrogen.
"We want to grow a hydrogen industry right across Queensland, we put $10 million into that on top of our $15 million," she said.
"What that means is we're going to partner with private industry to see how we can actually develop that industry here in Queensland, that'll mean so many jobs in the future.
"And just as Bundaberg Brewed Drinks here exports to the world, hydrogen will be exported as well especially to our neighbours in South Korea and Japan and that'll mean more jobs."
The NewsMail approached all of the Burnett candidates for their response.
Independent Burnett candidate Ric Glass said mill workers should be given priority for employment opportunities.
"I think we should do everything we can to train and locate Mill Workers, giving them priority over blow ins from outside the State or outside Burnett/Bundaberg," he said.
"Surely Millaquin Mill will expand and have some positions available to laterally transfer some staff? Voluntary redundancy?," Mr Glass said.
He said he would "wrangle" with the Bundaberg Regional Council and new solar farms in the region to train and employ former mill workers.
"There will also be construction jobs with Paradise Dam and some new weirs but in my opinion mill ex staff would be better suited to, nice clean, new technology jobs."
"I would provide opportunity and training symbiotically with BRC/LNP... and I will make it rain money on Burnett in those circumstances."
Incumbent Burnett MP Stephen Bennett said any business closure was sad for the community.
"It is disappointing that we have to see another mill close," he said.
"The LNP will deliver a nearly 20 per cent water savings to farmers to ensure our cane industry can keep producing the crops needed to keep our all-important sugar mills open.
"We'll also be cutting electricity costs by 20 per cent for the manufacturing sector - another helping hand for regional businesses."
Burnett Informed Medical Options Party candidate Elizabeth Case said there was the potential for a whole new industry through regenerative farming.
"Regenerative farming, holistic grazing, permaculture and other regenerative methods are the way of the future, for the reversal of environmental damage, rebuilding soil health and for the retention of much needed water within our communities," she said.
"There are many employment opportunities in these areas from traineeships in new regenerative land management, to the preparation of land for water retention and rehabilitation.
"We could have a whole new industry ready to go in our regional areas, which would secure a viable future for our farmers and provide food security for our communities and beyond.
"If elected as the State representative for the Burnett region, the co-ordination of a regenerative farming/food production industry would be a top priority."
Meanwhile, Katter's Australian Party candidate said he would start by reducing red tape.
"I would reduce red tape and reduce burdensome regulations on business," he said.
"I would combine this with a one year rates holiday for business and industry.
"We would then have a situation where business owners could invest in and expand their business, and thus provide more job opportunities as their businesses grow."
Cr Dempsey said council supported Bundaberg Sugar's proposal to invest in a new retractable bridge that would enable cane to be easily transported across the Burnett River and make the Millaquin Mill's operations more efficient.
"Bundaberg Sugar has been active and innovative in making sure the business remains contemporary and profitable," he said.
"They've diversified into sweet potatoes, macadamias and organic products, and opened up new markets in the Middle East.
"The company purchased 645ha of macadamia orchards last year, which has contributed to rising agricultural land values and boosted confidence in the sector.
"I've got no doubt Bundaberg Sugar will continue to be a significant investor in the region, but in the short term we need support for workers to re-skill and for farmers to diversify."
Mayor Dempsey said Council will continue to work with Bundaberg Sugar to identify other future uses for Bingera Mill.
"This could include a bio-refinery or other employment-creating opportunities but state investment will be required, similar to what was provided in Far North Queensland," he said.
The NewsMail has reached out to Green's candidate Liam Johnson, Labor candidate Kerri Morgan and One Nation candidate Geoffrey Mansell for comment but haven't yet received a response.