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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 12082


Dr LEIGH (Fraser) (13:41): As the member for Riverina and other members on the other side of the House well know, wheat is one of the very last federally regulated commodities in Australia. The Wheat Export Marketing Amendment Bill 2012 is continuing a process of deregulating the bulk wheat export market. That is bringing wheat into line with other agricultural commodities markets and it is doing so for the benefit of wheat farmers, so they can maximise their return, be globally competitive and continue to occupy their place in the national landscape.

I had the privilege of working in the late 1990s with the late Senator Peter Cook, a Western Australian senator, who I know was passionate about two things. One was wheat; the other was free trade. Senator Cook played a key role in the period in which the wheat-for-weapons scandals were being uncovered. The subsequent Cole inquiry began the process that is now underway. This steady movement away from a single desk towards a more market oriented approach is a process that was supported by Liberals on the other side of the House as recently as 2008. But as a media release from the chairman of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia, John Snooke, has noted:

The reason the Liberal Party split from their coalition partners in 2008 and supported Labor's deregulation Bill was that the Nationals' policy on wheat export marketing was proven to be an abject failure.

It goes on to say:

What is very clear is that Mr Abbott has fallen for the old Nationals’ chestnut of confusing everyone into thinking that you can deregulate through regulating.

It finishes up by saying:

All Mr Abbott's joint statement will do is show that the Liberal Party is no longer prepared to stand against the protectionist policies of the Nationals.

I do think it is a pity when those opposite who understand the importance of free markets and deregulation end up falling back into the old DLP tendencies that are so strong in the National Party and that have now come to prevail in the Liberal Party, whether it be scaring the Australian people over foreign investment, whether it be conducting outrageous scare campaigns on market based environmental solutions such as water buybacks in the Murray-Darling or a price on carbon or whether it be siding with the Nationals on protectionism over free markets.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr KJ Thomson ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for Fraser will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.