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Wednesday, 15 July 1998
Page: 6162

Mr TRUSS (Customs and Consumer Affairs) (4:06 PM) —I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

These amendments to the Wheat Marketing Legislation Amendment Bill 1998 which were passed by the Senate will remove the five-year limit on the export rights given to company B, the grower company pooling subsidiary, by the legislation. The amendments will also require the Wheat Export Authority to conduct a review and report to the minister by the end of 2004 on company B holding these export monopoly rights for wheat.

Following consideration of the report by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee on the Wheat Marketing Legislation Amendment Bill 1998 , the government decided to remove the provisions in the bill which would have sunsetted the grower company's legislated export monopoly rights for wheat on 1 July 2004. The government also decided to require the Wheat Export Authority to review these arrangements. The legislated provisions for the grower company monopoly for a prescribed period had been put in place in recognition that the legislation would be reviewed under the national competition policy in 1999-2000. If that review found in favour of maintaining monopoly agreements for wheat, the five-year time frame was seen as giving the grower company time to establish its credentials and demonstrate sound arguments to put before parliament as to why the company should continue to hold its monopoly rights. However, the government recognises the importance of providing certainty to wheat growers that their company will retain the right to export wheat without consent from the Wheat Export Authority unless parliament decides otherwise.

It has therefore been decided to amend the provisions in the bill to provide for no time limit to the grower company's right to export wheat. It has also been decided to require review of the performance of the pooling subsidiary company in regard to the use of the monopoly. These changes will have a minimal impact on the overall export monopoly arrangements as originally set out in the bill. They will not remove the government's commitment to national competition policy and the regular review of the legislation governing the wheat export arrangements.

A further amendment to provide that a quorum for meetings of the Wheat Export Authority includes at least one of the two members nominated by the Grains Council of Australia was also passed by the Senate with the government's support. The bill already provides for three of the five members of the Wheat Export Authority to comprise a quorum for its meetings. The House previously accepted the government's amendments to the original bill to expand the membership of the Wheat Export Authority from three to five and to provide that it would include separate members from Western Australia, South Australia and the eastern states nominated by the Grains Council of Australia. The amendment by the Senate ensuring that the quorum for meetings of the authority includes at least one of the Grains Council nominees is consistent with the government's earlier proposal to expand the authority's membership. With the ability to hold meetings by telephone or other means, it was never envisaged that the authority would be prepared to make decisions without input from the Grains Council nominee members. I commend these amendments to the House.