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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3350


Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (19:49): Riverina farmers are anxiously awaiting some leadership from the Treasurer, who has an important decision to make in the weeks ahead. The Treasurer will almost certainly get the final say on whether the American company Archer Daniels Midland is able to buy out GrainCorp. GrainCorp is the largest publicly listed grain business in the country. It is the last one of its kind. Its proposed sale to a foreign company is not in the national interest. GrainCorp's country silo, logistics and export facilities handle more than three-quarters of eastern Australia's grain crop and directly sells half of the wheat exports of New South Wales. It is big business, important business—not just for regional growers and the rural economies their hard work underpins, but also as far as Australia's trade and balance of payments are concerned. The Treasurer needs to reject any notion of a takeover if it comes across his desk. If such a buyer does not fail the national interest test, then I would ask: what does?

When it looked likely the control of the Australian Stock Exchange was headed abroad, to Singapore, the Treasurer responded swiftly to protect Australia's best interests. That was an $8 billion deal. That was 8 April 2011. He needs to adopt the same attitude again to keep GrainCorp in Australian hands. This will protect growers and ensure much of the profits from our $9 billion a year grain harvest stay where they belong—in Australia. The Treasurer has the opportunity to give grain growers hope and certainty. Grain growers are worried and they want guarantees. New South Wales Farmers' Grains Committee chairman, Mark Hoskinson, of Kikoira, says that the Treasurer must call for submissions for all of those concerned, and I agree. The Labor government must consult with the people this decision affects and they will see the concern growers have. Mr Hoskinson says tax implications if growers are forced to sell their shares and infrastructure concerns, such as the foreign control of export terminals, are some of the biggest issues amongst growers.

There are many grain growers within my electorate, some of whom I speak with on a very regular basis, such as Ian 'Jock' Munro, of Rankins Springs, and John Dennis, at Collingullie. They are very concerned about the proposed sale of GrainCorp to ADM. So is Griffith's Andy Ryan of the Northern Riverina Grains. Mr Munro says we should 'facilitate a process that will allow the grain producers of the three eastern States and the three state governments'—Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria—'to purchase GrainCorp and to allow the organisation to operate as a cooperative'. Junee grower Martin Honner says he is concerned about the influence of port control and the risk ports can become foreign owned and operated.

And the issue of access to ports in eastern Australia is critical. As I drive around my Riverina electorate, I am constantly reminded of the reality of abolishing the single desk for wheat by this parliament in 2008. Only the Nationals voted against seeing the realities of such a poor decision which Riverina growers now face every day. Only the Nationals voted against seeing piles and piles of wheat sitting idly in paddocks under tarps around the Riverina and elsewhere, because they cannot be taken to market because the price is not high enough. And this is before we consider the implications of years of drought and the remarkably high Australian dollar.

Grain growers are already up against it. Thank goodness it has rained this week. The proposed sale of GrainCorp to ADM is quite simply not in the national interest. I would urge the Treasurer to do as he did with the proposed Singaporean takeover of the ASX and move swiftly to protect this vital Australian company. I will read from the Leader of the Nationals' 3 May media release about this very subject because it is very pertinent to this debate. He said:

Thinking Australians are increasingly highlighting the potential for our country to expand its food sector to feed growing global demand, but this sale would mean that our nation loses control of its grain storage and export facilities and our grain producing future.

If we keep blithely going along with the domino-effect of one-by-one allowing our successful agribusinesses to fall into foreign hands, we'll have nothing left to call our own, and all the decisions about Australia's farming future will be made in boardrooms halfway around the world.

The consideration of the takeover will be a major test for the Foreign Investment Review Board and Treasurer Wayne Swan. If the FIRB reckons this sale is in the national interest, then it is incumbent on the FIRB to spell out why.

It is also time Archer Daniels Midland explained its plans for GrainCorp. Are there any benefits in this transaction for Australia and its farmers? Does it plan any new facilities and investment in Australia? What increased charges or reductions in services is it proposing? What will be left for Australia of profits from Australia's $9 million a year grain harvest?

They are questions that need to be answered. This is a Treasurer who needs to act and act now. (Time expired)