Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 67

Senator O’BRIEN (1:29 PM) —It is a pretty shabby reason to push through this legislation, which clearly has not been the subject of any significant consultation with growers. I understand the Grains Council received a letter last night specifying the matters to which the minister referred in his contribution earlier—that is, the extent of the consultation with the peak grower organisation for the wheat industry. One would have to say that that does not inspire confidence in the future of the level of consultation that our growers will receive from the authority—or the Export Wheat Commission, as it will become—and it does not seem to indicate a justification for removing from the legislation a provision that would have guaranteed that consultation. This came without any warning whatsoever to grower organisations—certainly none that have spoken to my office—or to the Grains Council. It is just remarkable. I am pleased to hear the minister say the government takes responsibility for this legislation. It is a shocking thing to have to accept responsibility for the cavalier fashion in which the grower organisation was written out of the legislation. And no-one was consulted about this when the bill was introduced—naturally, they went through it and picked it up, and we were able to discern the changes ourselves. It is remarkable that there was no consultation about that earlier.

It is also remarkable, if we are to accept from a government that talks about employees, industrial action, ballots, proper controls and the like, that in this case the government is not prepared to ballot growers on a provision that will affect every one of their enterprises in terms of the sale on the international market of the commodity they grow. And, of course, we are a major exporter, and many growers depend almost entirely on the international market, particularly those in South Australia and Western Australia. There is also a lot of grain on the eastern states of Australia that is sold into the deregulated domestic markets. In fact, some people suggest that there are a few people running around arguing the same case that the National Party is arguing—that they have not put their grain into the pool for quite some time. But the National Party is content to manipulate the argument, perhaps because it wants to be relevant—perhaps for other reasons; I will let others comment about that. But it is a remarkable situation: no consultation about the bill in any significant sense; no consultation about measures in the bill that wrote out grower organisations.

And now we have the issue of the non-bulk exports, the boxed and bagged exports, in schedule 4. We want to get an understanding of why the government has introduced the so-called quality provision. I thought from the minister’s earlier reply that it is not actually supposed to be a quality assurance provision. I wonder whether the minister could remind us in his next contribution of the actual purpose of this provision, which does not apply to any other export commodity.

Senator Joyce —I don’t know about that.

Senator O’BRIEN —Oh, there are other provisions. Senator Joyce says he does not know about that. I can assure him that there are other provisions that apply to other commodities, in existing laws, which no doubt would apply in terms of AQIS and its role in relation to exports. I do not know why we need specific provisions in this legislation that, as a matter of fact, are a justification for delaying the introduction of this provision. The 60 days from royal assent, which I understand is the operative date, seems to be an unnecessary delay. If there is a commitment to the deregulations of boxed and bagged wheat, as it is colloquially described, then why can’t it happen upon royal assent? We do not know that there is a great need for an extensive system to so-called ‘assure quality’. And we do not know what cost that will impose on this measure. I know that there are some within the grower community who have a suspicion that this is another means by which the deregulation of containerised wheat will be made less economic, and it will therefore be an illusory deregulation. Those concerns are out there. But, whether or not those are valid concerns, I do not understand why we need to go through this process of ‘quality assurance’. If I were an exporter of barley—or canola, or lupins or any other of the dry-land farmed commodities that we export—I would not need to go through this process, so why should a wheat grower?