Adjournment - Agriculture Industry


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (19:35): The title of my address tonight will be 'The ongoing saga of the Marella Jubes'. Back in 1994 in what I humbly say was one of my better speeches, I told the Senate about how, while being addicted to the jubes, I had noticed a change in the composition of the lolly. They were no longer quite as hard as they used to be. So I wrote to Nestle and complained about this. They responded saying: 'Well, the ingredients used to be partly sourced from the UK and the USA. They're now entirely Australian ingredients. Sorry, but the texture is slightly less hard. But, to compensate me at the time, they sent me a whole box of Marella Jubes. Much as I was tempted, I did actually give the unopened box to the local Endeavour Foundation—it was at that time called the Sub-Normal Children's Welfare Association—in my hometown of Ayr. I came back to the Senate and I made a speech recounting this particular event.

That all came back to my mind just in this sitting session when a group of confectionery manufacturers came to see me and other parliamentarians representing sugar seats in Queensland. This group of confectionery makers were concerned about this ongoing campaign to denigrate sugar and they wanted us to be aware as representatives of sugar-growing areas of the impacts any suggested sugar tax or any demonising of sugar would have on work in our area and in other areas.

Mr Acting Deputy President O'Sullivan, I was pleased to be joined by yourself, Mr Christensen, Mr O'Dowd, Ms Landry, Mr Keith Pitt, Stuart Robert and Warren Entsch—all the members representing those seats plus some from New South Wales. We were concerned to hear the concern of the confectionery makers. These confectionery makers employ something like 8,000 people in their factories around Australia, mainly in the southern capitals, although there are some in my home state in Gympie and Carole Park in Brisbane. They are big employers of people in the manufacturing industry.

Of course, we all know that the sugar industry is the country's second-largest export crop after wheat. There are 35 million tonnes of sugar grown and four million tonnes of raw sugar exported each year. The value of production is $2.5 billion. Australia is the second-largest exporter of raw sugar in the world. There are some 16,000 people directly employed in the sugar industry and about 40,000 indirectly and directly employed. There are 4,000 cane farming small businesses across the country. Ninety-five per cent of Australia's sugar is grown in my home state of Queensland.

It was a useful get-together. As compensation for dragging us out of our busy day, the confectionery manufacturers all managed to bring a few samples for those attending and, lo and behold, there was an extra supply of Marella Jubes for me. I didn't donate them to some children's fund this time. Rather I donated them to our whip, who along with the Labor Party Whip, I noticed in an inspection just now, have these confectionery items near the doors of the whips' offices. This is for the Whips to perform their worthwhile service in dispensing confectionery to overworked senators who, like today, often work from 9:30 to midnight and need an energy boost during a long day. The Marella jubes are for a worthwhile cause, but it is a serious message to dispense with this stupidity from some in our community who want to ban sugar. Sugar is a natural part of life.

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