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Thursday, 19 June 2008
Page: 2889

Senator SIEWERT (7:39 PM) —I would like to put on record the Greens’ position on these issues. I have a number of questions for the minister and also, if it is appropriate, for the opposition, because I seek clarifications on a couple of points in their amendments. I will firstly go through our comments on the various amendments.

The Greens will be supporting amendment (1), which is a change to a clause. We think it reads a little bit clumsily but we will support that amendment. We do not support amendments (2) to (6), dealing with individual growers, for many of the same reasons as the government, in fact. We believe the accreditation system has been developed to put in place some surety for the system so that the system has some integrity. Firstly, we are concerned that individual growers on their own are not likely to be able to produce enough for bulk export. Secondly, without accreditation, we are concerned about the integrity of the system, quality control and also, as the government has already articulated, the need to put in some sort of checking system to ensure that it is the growers’ wheat that is being exported. So we have some concerns around those amendments and will not be supporting them. In terms of amendments (4) to (6), I will come back and ask Senator Minchin some questions. We question whether they are in fact necessary.

I understand item (7) regarding the operation of certain state and territory laws is largely driven by my home state of Western Australia, which still has laws in place. I would like to confirm whether this item is there not only to deal with that issue but also to deal with any future state governments who may introduce laws restricting transport by road. We have some concerns there. Obviously we are keen to see as much grain being transported by rail as possible, and into the future this is going to be an increasingly important issue. We are a little bit concerned that that may restrict an orderly approach to rail transport.

In terms of timing of the review, in particular we support item (9), which sets a reporting date. That should be required; when starting a review you obviously need a reporting date. We also share the concerns about the limited time for the review. It only allows for one season of a properly functioning market. Obviously, if it turns out that there are major problems with this system we want to pick them up as fast as possible, but I suspect we would pick them up anyway, even without this review. We would have preferred to see the date for the beginning of the review remain 1 January 2011, but with a reporting date of 1 July 2001. Having said that, we will not oppose this amendment.

I will now go to my questions of both the government and Senator Minchin. I will deal with the accreditation process first. I have a few general questions around the accreditation process for the minister. As I understand it, the government has allocated $1.15 million to an information program. Is the minister able to provide any details on what that program will look like so that growers have an idea of the services that will be provided? Will it provide financial education and counselling in marketing and risk management, which were recommendations of the committee inquiry? Will the government guarantee that the program will be extended beyond one year? As I understand it, resources have only been allocated for a year. Will it guarantee that, if the program is needed and there is demand from farmers, it will be extended beyond the first year?