Wednesday 9 February 2011

Babinda Mill - The axing of an icon

Local sugar cane farmer and former Mulgrave Shire Councillor Ross Parisi, says the closure of the Babinda Mill will be a devastating blow to the communities south of Cairns in the wake of Cyclone Yasi.

The management of the Babinda sugar mill has just announced the closure of the mill because of it being uneconomic to function any longer.

"Now, that may well be the case but the timing is interesting, right in the middle of the trauma caused by Cyclone Yasi," Ross Parisi says. "Just five years ago the Mourilyan mill closed down at the height of despair caused by Cyclone Larry. What cowards the management must be. Why not wait at least until the Babinda people recovered from the effects of the cyclone?"

Parisi hopes the Cairns Regional Council will make the Management known of its objection to the closure.

Far North Queensland Electrical Trades organiser Stuart Traill says the decision is a disgrace.

"Maryborough Sugar is the company that has just killed an iconic Far North town in the name of corporate greed," Traill says. "I was there yesterday and spoke to the workers. [This is] so sad, and only a matter of time before vital services will be lost to the town's residents."

Ross Parisi is now calling for a public meeting so the Babinda people can give vent to their feelings.

"I think the Cairns Regional Council and the State Government need to get involved in a big way," Stuart Traill says. "I have raised concerns about this from the day Maryborough Sugar bought the Mill. I am filthy at the decision and timing from the heartless bastards that have no idea how important the mill is to Babinda."

"Maryborough are not promising jobs at either of the other Mills. The tradesmen will eventually get work but the rest will struggle locally, as they move public services will be at risk. We need commitments from the State Govt that services such as the Babinda Hospital will not be reduced as a result," Traill says. "During the last round of Mulgrave negotiations management kept saying they were looking to acquire new crop. That acquisition is at Babinda residents expense."

"[This is] extremely disappointing and heartless timing," Cairns Regional Councillor Julia Leu says. "The last thing Babinda needed."

Ross Parisi agrees with Councillor Leu's sentiments.

"The workers and the people of Babinda has been treated with contempt and arrogance," Ross Parisi says. "They made the announcement while the affected people are preoccupied with survival. What an act of cowardice. The Management of Babinda Mill cannot be allowed to go unscathed. They must be brought to account."

Here is the statement as reported by AAP...
  • Babinda Mill put up for closure

    "Australia's last remaining listed sugar company The Maryborough Sugar Factory Ltd says it is seeking to close its Babinda Mill joint-venture with Bundaberg Sugar Ltd in Queensland.

    Under the proposal, which the company says is subject to consultation with staff and union representatives, operations at Babinda, south of Cairns, would be transferred to the Mulgrave and South Johnstone mills.

    "This proposal would create a world-competitive long-term sustainable sugar industry in far north Queensland," Maryborough Sugar Factory said in a statement on Tuesday.

    Industry body Canegrowers expressed shock and surprise at the proposed closure.
    Canegrowers chief executive Steve Greenwood said there was no consultation ahead of the proposal being made public and he would be seeking urgent meetings with the joint-venture partners. "We heard news of the proposal to close the mill at the same time as the general public and the media," Mr Greenwood said in a statement. "We are equal partners in this and clearly the lack of consultation has come as quite a shock to us."

    Joint-venture operations manager and Maryborough Sugar Factory chief executive Mike Barry said the proposed closure was due to the loss of large cane areas in the region over the past 10 years.
    Some of the 62 permanent employees at Babinda would be made redundant but the company said it would try to redeploy as many employees as practicable. All Babinda Mill apprentices would continue their training until completion and all entitlements honoured, Mr Barry said.

    A final decision on the proposed closure was likely to take place in about two weeks, the company said.
    Maryborough was the last sugar company left standing on the Australian Securities Exchange after CSR Ltd successfully offloaded its Sucrogen business to Singapore-based agribusiness Wilmar International for $1.843 billion in December last year. Maryborough Sugar Factory shares gained seven cents, or 2.13 per cent, to close at $3.35 on Tuesday."


stinhambo said...

There is no sentiment in business. It's harsh but who knows how long that decision was on the table for? Perhaps they were set to announce last week?

Stuey Traill said...

My word is they were going to announce it last week. The ETU had no formal notification of the closure despite us being one of the three Industry Unions. All we heard was the rumours that were proven to be true. Its a Bloody disgrace that Maryborough Sugar bought Babinda Mill with one goal, close it and send the cane to their other two Mills.
Corporate Greed at its best.