Stroppiana & Ors v Mackay Sugar Ltd  QSC 217
List member Michael Hodge appeared for the respondent in this case.
The applicants were sugar growers and the respondent owned four sugar mills. The case revolved around the interpretation of the “Cane Supply and Processing Agreement” (“CSPA”), and the Sugar Industry Act 1999 (Qld) which governs supply contracts for the supply of sugar cane by growers to mill owners.
The respondent had purported to vary its CPSA with certain growers, including the second and third applicants. For the first applicant, the respondent had purported exercise a contractual power to “deem a charge to be an expense applicable to all sales of sugar”. The effect of the purported exercise of the powers to vary or deem was to permit the respondent to deduct $2 per tonne of cane from the cane payments otherwise due to each grower.
The variation that applied to the second and third applicants was pursuant to a Deed entered into between the respondent and Mackay Cane Growers Ltd and Australian Cane Farmers Association Ltd, who were the bargaining representatives for most growers (including the second and third applicants). The applicants contended that the respondent was not permitted to vary the cane supply contracts in this way, either because of the proper construction of the form and content of the contract or by virtue of the effect of the Sugar Industry Act. The Court rejected both of these contentions.
However, in relation to the first applicant, the Court held that respondent was only permitted to deem an expense that was an “expense item” within a particular category. The $2 per tonne charge was not such an expense item and therefore could not be deemed by the respondent.
The Court made a declaration with respect to the deeming of the $2 per tonne charge that applied to the first applicant but otherwise dismissed the application.
See judgment here: https://www.sclqld.org.au/caselaw/QSC/2017/217