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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 68


Senator ABETZ (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (1:35 PM) —If I may, I have a whole host of notes trying to deal with a whole host of issues raised by Senator O’Brien—before Senator Joyce adds to the list, I might try to get rid of some! Could I respectfully suggest to Senator O’Brien that we have had the political debate. I think the political points have been made by either side sufficiently—and I think that, if we could leave those as limited as possible, that would be very helpful in this committee stage. In relation to consultation with the GCA, I understand that they were consulted last year, especially in relation to the Uhrig changes, which I think you may have been referring to. On my advice, they also took part in the Ralph consultations. In relation to AWBI continuing to hold the single desk: that is not expected. The provision about the veto not returning to AWBI covers all contingencies. It is not expected to happen. The Prime Minister said on 22 May that, if no new entity had been created, we would consider our options.

I think Senator O’Brien would struggle to find a single wheat grower who feels that they have not had their voice heard. Growers have been consulted to within an inch of their lives and the thing that they really want is certainty. I take the point—and Senator Nash, Senator Adams and Senator Joyce may correct me on this—that some of the growers might not necessarily be fully satisfied with the outcome, but that is different to the issue of whether there has been consultation and discussion within their community on all the issues that should be put into the melting pot. From that point of view, I think there has been the sort of consultation that this government has become known for.

I apologise to my Nationals friends for quoting the member for New England, but I have been advised that he undertook a poll on what people wanted. There was 80 per cent support for a single desk. He consulted with his electorate and, just as much as he did, so did my Nationals and Liberal Party colleagues. If I have any knowledge about my colleagues, I am sure they would have done it even better than the member for New England. Also, submissions to the Ralph review support the government’s policy position.

By making it a requirement for exporters to comply with the quality assurance scheme, the government is also securing the reputation of Australia as a reliable supplier of quality wheat. What will that cost? Most wheat export contracts already involve sampling and testing for commercial reasons. I am advised that the cost of these tests varies but is typically in the range of $200 to $350 per test. The government expects that the costs under the QA scheme will be similar.