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Thursday, 19 June 2008
Page: 2889


Senator MINCHIN (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (7:21 PM) —I want to respond to the government’s elucidation of their position on our amendments and welcome the government’s support for most of our amendments. I note with respect what the government have said on the review, but I think that, from the point of view of growers—and we know, as I was able to experience earlier in the week, there are some growers who are not happy with this—a review at the time that we have proposed does make a lot of sense. Ensuring, for their confidence, that this will be looked at at an appropriate time is important. It may well be that further reviews are required—I am sure they probably will be—in order to ensure that Australian wheat growers are satisfied with the continuing operation of this new system, but I do not think that is a reason to further delay the review as proposed.

I am disappointed that the government are not able to accept our amendments with respect to individual wheat growers. We do not accept their arguments. We do think individuals should be able to market and sell their own wheat without having to comply with this regime, and we will be pursuing those amendments.

With respect to the matter Senator Joyce raised and to which Senator Sherry responded, from the point of view of Liberal senators we think this is a matter for the government. We are not at this stage persuaded—as, it appears, is the government, from Senator Sherry’s remarks—that further amendments are required. I am certainly sympathetic to the arguments put by Senator Sherry that this is a matter between the joint venture partners. It is a commercial matter for them, and we are not persuaded that further amendments are required.

However, can I say to the chamber that, from a procedural point of view, if the government does not accept our amendments with respect to individual growers and the chamber nevertheless passes those amendments, the bill will inevitably have to go back to the House of Representatives, where the government will have to consider its position on the amendments made by the Senate that it does not agree with. That would be an opportunity for the government to further consider this matter if it so chose. Then of course the bill will have to come back to this chamber, where this chamber will have to decide what its position will be on the amendments in the event that the government indicates in the lower house that it is not prepared to accept those amendments. So I suspect we will be talking about this bill once more next week—through you, Mr Chairman, to Senator Joyce. In the meantime, the government will have the opportunity to further consider its position with respect to the joint venture matter. But certainly at this stage, it is the position of Liberal senators that we concur with the remarks of Senator Sherry on that matter.