Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says the government has a code of conduct for the sugar industry “in the drawer” and is waiting to “play that card”.
Senator Pauline Hanson has threatened to withhold One Nation’s three votes in the upper house until the Coalition resolves a dispute between cane growers in North Queensland.
“The Treasurer and I have had a code of conduct up our sleeve for some time,” Mr Joyce told the ABC.
“It’s just a case of when we play that card to try and make sure that we bring this thing to a resolution.”
Queensland sugar mill Wilmar and sugar marketer QSL have been locked in a bitter payment dispute for years, drawing in federal politicians.
A draft agreement may be presented to QSL as early as Monday and Mr Joyce said he did not want to spook the dealmakers.
“What we don’t want is people falling back and people saying, ‘We’ve just looked at the code of conduct and the code of conduct is better for us than coming to an agreement’.”
“We want to make sure that we keep the pressure on them at all levels.”
But the Deputy Prime Minister warned the government could introduce tougher regulations “at any point in time”.
“I’m not saying we would but we have a cabinet meeting tonight. We could do it tonight, we could do it next week. We could do it whenever we like.”
Joyce rejected Productivity Commission’s recommendation
Nationals senator John Williams told the ABC he shared One Nation’s concerns about sugar cane growers but did not like her approach to negotiation.
“Pauline, don’t blackmail,” he said.
“Just work on each issue as it comes along. Let’s work together to fix up the sugar industry and that monopoly and the problems they face.”
The Federal Productivity Commissioner recently reviewed agricultural regulation in an attempt to reduce red tape in the sector.
“He put forward that recommendation and I rejected it,” Mr Joyce said.
“What he wants and what I want are two different things but I’ll win.”
The Commission’s report was handed to the Coalition in November but is yet to be released publicly.
Mr Joyce said he had also convinced his colleagues the government may need to intervene in the sugar industry.
“Had that argument and won that a number of weeks ago.”