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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 10234

Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (13:47): I acknowledge that a lot of people want to speak in this debate on the Wheat Export Marketing Amendment Bill 2012, so I will try to limit my remarks to around five minutes. If there is one good thing that comes out of this, it will be that the Senate is actually going to operate as a Senate and that the people from the different states who have different views will express those views—and that is how the Senate is supposed to work.

I concur with the remarks that there is a circumstance in Western Australia that is more evident towards a larger grower. I do not understand why—and I am agreeing here with Senator Eggleston—we would be moving in a direction to change the outcome with this legislation beyond Western Australia. We are changing it for the whole nation. The reality on the eastern coast—and I am there and I have grown wheat; I have a grain place—is that we are getting ripped off.

If people want to talk about access to markets, let us make sure that we bring into the chamber right now legislation for the ACCC, because it has had no chance against the regional based monopolies which have taken the place of a regulator. We acknowledge that the single desk was a regulated monopoly, but it was regulated. It worked on behalf of the best return to the growers. What it has been replaced with is regionally based monopolies for which we are definitely at a strategic disadvantage, and that is reflected in the price that we get for our product. But no-one seems to be suggesting changes to the ACCC, to bring in laws so that we can get fairness for these people and a better price—a price that is a better reflection on the market price. The multinational monopolies now dominate so many sections of regional New South Wales and regional Queensland. The latest one is Archer Daniels looking to buy GrainCorp, in which case we will be completely and utterly over a barrel and exploited. All of a sudden the bells are starting to ring.

In the east, we are in a different circumstance. I concur with Senator Eggleston that maybe the time has come to have a different regulations on this for the different states. If growers in Western Australia are certain that their situation works for them, then we are absolutely certain that it does not work for us. Western Australia has an advantage because it is the cooperative bulk handler. It is a monopoly owned by the growers; it is owned by individuals. We do not have a cooperative bulk handler. We have Viterra. We are going to have Archer Daniels. We have Cargill. They are doing what monopolies do. Once they dominate the marketplace, they work to exploit the people who supply them the product to try and get the best return for them, not for the grower.

It is incumbent upon this parliament, if we believe that all controls should be removed and we acknowledge that farmers are being exploited, that we move towards a broader and more instructive process in the ACCC so that fairness can be brought back to the farm gate. With access arrangements and quality arrangements, it is a one-size-fits-all approach. I think we all agree on this now: the one-size-fits-all approach across the nation is just not working.

I heard mention of the Productivity Commission. The Productivity Commission study went over one year. That is hardly the time frame required to get a proper assessment when there are variant seasons from droughts to bumper seasons and everything in between. You cannot do an assessment on the wheat industry on an examination of one year. The process that we ask for, especially in the National Party, is not a position that is driven by philosophy.

It is driven by experience. It is driven by pragmatism. It is driven by a desire to deal with an issue which is completely and abundantly apparent to us now—that there is exploitation in the new arrangements that have come as we predicted to the people predominantly in the eastern states.

We are not supporting this, because the issue has not been resolved. We will not walk away from people that are being exploited on the premise of a philosophy when the reality for them is clear and apparent. I acknowledge that they are the small growers but we, especially in the National Party, look out for those small growers because, if we do not look after them, then who on earth will?