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Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Page: 4290


Mr TUCKEY (11:43 PM) —I support the Wheat Export Marketing Bill 2008 and the related bill. I congratulate the government for its introduction, but I do say to the minister, for whom I have a high respect, that I hope he will look very closely at the technical amendments we have brought forward. We do not think they should be dealt with in any other way than a practical way. My opinion of you will stay high if you can accommodate us in that regard. I had to send a message to Martin the other day on that issue.

There are no prohibitions in this legislation to prevent wheat growers from collectively bargaining. Those who choose to can do exactly what they have done for the last 50 years. There is also no prohibition in this legislation which requires wheat growers to collectively bargain. They have a right, which is fundamental to me and my commitment to the Liberal Party, to do as they wish. They are not required to do anything; they are given the opportunity to do as they please.

It is an interesting fact that when this government in coalition introduced the measures to corporatise the old AWB—if anybody wishes to turn to the Hansard of 2 October 1997 or in fact 1 June 1998—both my speeches raised the issues and predicted the outcome. As I said in my closing remarks in 1998:

But we will just have to wait and see how all this goes. I repeat: I am not opposing the legislation but I am not at all happy with it.

And on the previous occasion, in 1997, I said:

This is a grower model, yet as they presently propose, the structures are totally unworkable. The problem is that the proposal is to create a company that is run by its customers but which seeks over time to attract non-customer share capital. This creates a massive conflict of interest that will, at least, probably deny existing WIF contributors any chance of recovering their forced contributions through the sale of the proposed B class shares.

That is what I said when our government tried to change a well-established statutory operation. We know who did it, and I am not pointing fingers.

The reality is that, from that moment on, the single desk was dead because the corporate model could not accommodate a process of maximising grower returns. I congratulate the government again for putting some serious money up, amongst other things, to give growers a clear indication of their opportunities. I have corresponded with the trade commission to try and get a process of direct marketing, and hence one of the amendments we want. The person who came representing CBH the other day, the newly elected chairman, had once been a sharefarmer in South Australia. He told us that in the last three years his average production has been 35,000 tonnes of wheat. He, or maybe he and his neighbour, may just want to export in bulk—and I do not think they need to be protected from themselves. That just gives you an example of how that will work.

The reality is that there are clear opportunities in this modern marketplace, this international marketplace, for growers. I hope the government through Austrade and others will assist them—point out the pitfalls and point out the opportunities whereby there will be no middleman; there will be no Cargills breathing down their neck, the foreign devils. I mean, they do not have to be there. But let me repeat: if certain push polling is correct, 80 per cent of all growers are going to stay with AWB. They are going to pull up this coming season, hopefully, with a lot of wheat, have it tested in the manner that it has been tested for the last 20 years, get a receipt that tells them what that is and what weight of grain they have got, back over the grating and pull the lever. Having consigned it to the AWB pool, they can drive away and forget all about it—over a period of time someone will pay them something.

As it has been since the corporatisation of AWB, they gift their wheat to that pool. Since the corporatisation they were never even secured creditors. We hear all this rubbish about buyer of last resort, but as a grower you gave your wheat to that pool. In fact, you had no guarantee of getting your money back. I have been there and done that. One year the best offer I could get from the corporatised pool was $90 a tonne, so I fed it to cattle. That got me $200 a tonne. So do not tell me about their generosity and their capacity to get good markets. From the minute they got going—forget about Iraq—they got a Geneva desk. That was owned by AWB Limited, not the pool. They went out and chartered shipping and then turned round and charged that shipping to the pool by the tonne. The Wheat Export Authority did an exercise, and a rather brief one at that, and said that they clipped about $40 million out of the pool and out of the pockets of the growers in one year. I mean, who can stand in this place and endorse that sort of thing? Those on this side, when we were over there on that side in government, created the monster; the monster destroyed the single desk; and the government now is applying the last rites, and good on you.