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Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Page: 4285

Mr CHAMPION (11:25 PM) —I am pleased to be speaking in favour of the Wheat Export Marketing Bill 2008 and I think this bill delivers on a key commitment to reform and improves the exporting arrangements for Australia’s $4.7 billion wheat export industry. The most important thing this bill does is provide growers with some certainly about their future. It is important to acknowledge the background to this bill. First of all, we had many reports which cast doubt on the value of the single desk over the years. We have had a deregulated domestic market since 1989, we had the Volcker report and the Cole commission and then we had the timid half-hearted response of the previous government. All of this left wheat growers with a great deal of uncertainty, and it has been left to the new government to make a decisive response, a decisive legislative framework, to govern our wheat exports.

The farmers I have grown up with and dealt with over the years tend to run dynamic, competent, resourceful businesses and they do not need a monopoly to protect them in the marketplace. They do not need a monopoly in the domestic marketplace, so I cannot see why they would need a monopoly in the international marketplace. Indeed, after the Cole commission and the Volcker report, a monopoly has been proved to be detrimental to our national interest.

That said, we can rely on a couple of things in this bill. First of all, it has the Wheat Industry Expert Group, which will give advice to the government about the delivery of industry development functions that were previously supplied by AWB. The recommendations of this group in relation to the provision of market information to growers is particularly important. The government is providing some support to the industry: $2.5 million over three years to assist with the collection of market information for growers; $1.15 million for information sessions for growers to adjust to the new system; $600,000 to help new marketers deliver technical market support to customers; and we are also going to assist—and I would like to strongly support this—in the creation of an industry code of conduct, which is being developed by the National Agriculture Commodities and Market Association, which will provide standards and transport-pricing practices at silos and include fees and charges, marketing rates and net return figures that will assist growers in going about their business. This has been raised with me by growers and wheat farmers in my electorate as being a key part of the export industry, so I think it is great that the government is committing some financial support to develop that code. It is critical to growers being able to operate in the new system.

Another thing that is critical to wheat farmers being able to operate in the new system is Wheat Exports Australia being able to accredit companies of good standing, which have the financial resources, the risk management systems and a record of obeying both Australian law, international law and United Nations resolutions. I think it is critical that wheat growers deal with companies that are reputable and that have a capacity to trade in the international environment.

Mr Windsor interjecting

Mr CHAMPION —We do not know who is going to be accredited yet. So I think that will be a critical part of the bill. The other critical part of bill is the prevention of regional monopolies, and  the role of the ACCC is going to be essential in this area. I note that the Leader of the Opposition says, ‘Why do you need two forms of regulation?’ But I think that the prospect of the ACCC’s involvement after 1 October 2009 will help to ensure that regional monopolies are not created, because the small number of operators of bulk grain facilities will know that strong regulation and strong oversight is waiting there in the future. They will also know that the bill will be reviewed by the Productivity Commission in 2010.

Given the short amount of time that I have had to speak, I do not want to unduly take up the time of the House, but the government is committed to open, transparent and competitive markets, and this bill is a perfect expression of that belief. I have every reason to believe and expect that our farming and wheat export businesses will compete, flourish and prosper under the new arrangements. I commend the bill to the House.