60% LESS SUGAR CANE TO BE CUT AND PROCESSED THIS YEAR
Mourilyan Mill, the oldest sugar mill in North Queensland, has announced it will not be opening for business this year, signalling further job losses in the region where more than 5000 people are already out of work due to the devastation wrought by Cyclone Larry.
The Belgian owners of the mill have decided the facilities are too damaged to start up again crushing sugar cane, and they are claiming a shortage of labour means they cannot repair the "unbelievable" damage in time.
This will mean a loss of around 150 full time jobs and some 60 seasonal positions.
Many hundreds of workers who lost their jobs when cane, banana, avovado and tropical fruit farms were destroyed in the cyclone were hoping to find replacement work at the mill.
It may be of small relief to those who now have no jobs and have lost their homes that they will be eligible for grants of up to $2000 from the recently, awkwardly, renamed 'Prime Minister and Premier Cyclone Larry Relief Appeal'.
Prime Minister John Howard and State Premier Peter Beattie obviously don't want the locals to forget just where this money is coming from, despite it being drawn from taxpayers. They've hardly reached into their own pocket to build the fund. Perhaps it should be called 'The People Of Australia's Cyclone Larry Relief Appeal'?
Those who no longer have homes in which they can live will be allowed to apply first for the $2000 grants, while those who are termed as 'needy', but have homes in which they can live, will have to wait seven to ten days before they can apply for the emergency cash grants.
$10 million has been set aside for this first run of grants.
At least 4000 homes in the cyclone affected areas have been determined as "unsafe", and will not have electricity reconnected.
Some 450 people have been placed in emergency accomodation by the Department of Housing.
The Johnstone Shire Mayor Neil Clarke told the Courier Mail that she is hoping Bundaberg Sugar will repair the Mourilyan Mill and have it ready to hire new workers at the start of the next season.
Only 40 per cent of the original sugar cane crop is now expected to be harvested.
(Info for this story was drawn from ABC News reports, the Courier Mail, news.com and the Sydney Morning Herald)