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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1705

Mr BEDDALL(11.32) —The Wheat Marketing Bill 1984 and the cognate Bills before the House will put into effect a new five-year agreement for the industry . I understand that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) has had the fullest consultations with all sectors of the industry before introducing these Bills. Indeed, a willingness to consult and listen to the problems of all primary producers has been one of the hallmarks of this Minister. As a further example of that, the Minister will be moving amendments in the Committee stage this evening to take account of further representations. In regard to the consultation that this Minister has had and the respect in which this Minister is held, the Director of the Cattlemen's Union of Australia, Rick Farley, said that the Minister has made a greater effort to consult primary industry than any Federal primary industry Minister he had dealt with. The President of the National Farmers Federation said that he was impressed by the Minister's great understanding of agriculture. I mention these remarks to show how highly regarded the Minister is in the eyes of primary industry. They show why the Minister deserves support with these Bills.

One aspect of the Bills which is particularly helpful to Queensland growers is the redefining of the wheat season. As honourable members will know, a wheat season covers a seven-year period. However, the underwriting provisions and the domestic pricing provisions will be limited to a five-year period. The extension of a further two years will help in a smooth transition between wheat plans. The Bill will provide for the commencement of the wheat season from 1 July instead of 1 October. This change recognises the special circumstances of Darling Downs growers. They have traditionally harvested in August and September and these provisions will be of benefit to them.

The Bills also affect the domestic pricing of wheat. However, the Government is dependent upon complementary legislation from the States. I understand that, after consultations with Queensland's shadow primary industry spokesman, Mr Kruger, the legislation was introduced into the Queensland Parliament yesterday. I hope that the Queensland Government will proceed with the complementary legislation without delay.

Domestic pricing involves a quarterly determination based on the averaging of the Australian Wheat Board's export prices for the forward quarter and the past quarter. In addition, this price will include a margin per tonne which relates to the cost to the Australian Wheat Board of servicing the domestic market. Directly resulting from the new wheat arrangements, the Minister consulted State Ministers at the Australian Agricultural Council on 27 September. The new price was determined at $195.25 per tonne free on rail at port of export. This price represents a fall of $24.16 per tonne compared with the 1983-84 price. The effect of this on the cost of bread making will be between 1.6c and 2.2c per loaf, depending on the size. This price reduction should be passed on to consumers. I am sure that all Australian families will welcome such a reduction.

One of the measures in these Bills which has provoked much public discussion is the decision to restructure the Wheat Board. We have heard claims that this measure will nationalise the Wheat Board. A former Liberal member from Western Australia, Mr Hyde, wants to have the Australian Wheat Board scrapped. I do not envy the Minister trying to negotiate an agreement between these viewpoints.

I believe the Wheat Board should be restructured. The decision to include experts in financing and marketing is a sensible one. Initiatives undertaken by the Government to deregulate aspects of the Australian economy have made us internationally competitive. It has also meant that a thorough knowledge of finance is needed. Financial arrangements including commercial borrowings, the use of futures markets and credit sales receipts with borrowing repayments have added to the financial expertise demanded of any member of a statutory authority . The Bill recognises this and the Minister should be congratulated on the proposals for restructuring. I think it would be easy for the Minister to allow the Board to remain the same. I remind the House of the comments made yesterday by the President of the National Farmers Federation, Mr McLachlan. He said:

If the exciting potential of agriculture is to be achieved, attitudes must change, shackles must be removed.

Changes to the Wheat Board must be seen in that light. These Bills have to be judged against measures undertaken in the Budget which will assist the wheat industry. The wheat tax, estimated at $4.7m, will be supplemented by the Federal Government with a contribution to wheat research of $5.5m. The Government has also spent a considerable amount on research funds and investment oriented soil conservation programs. These are initiatives which have been of benefit to the wheat industry as a whole.

These Bills continue the initiatives in the Budget. The new permit system for domestic stockfeed wheat sales includes a saving of up to 80c a tonne for all growers. The permit system for stockfeed wheat frees the Australian Wheat Board from the obligation of selling it all through the pool system. The Australian Wheatgrowers Federation Director, Ian Wearing, has calculated that growers will get cash savings of $25 a tonne, shared between growers and buyers, for wheat sold outside the pool. On Dr Wearing's calculations, if 500,000 tonnes were sold under permit, the total cash savings across the entire harvest would be about 80c a tonne.

I turn now to an aspect which many farmers are worried about. I refer to off- farm costs. I read with interest in Queensland Country Life that Queensland wheat producers face the highest wheat handling charges of any producers in Australia. They pay $20 a tonne compared with $16 paid by growers in New South Wales.

Mr Brumby —Where is that?

Mr BEDDALL —Queensland. They pay $20 a tonne while in New South Wales they pay $ 16 a tonne. After the recent State Budget, rail freight increases of nine per cent were announced. It is still unclear whether wheat producers will be free from this increase. I call on the Queensland Government to come clean on rail freight charges for wheat farmers.

Mr Ian Cameron —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I would like the honourable member for Fadden to withdraw that statement about Queensland costs. If he would only take the time to read the report, he would know that the New South Wales rail freight rates are higher.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mountford) —Order! There is no point of order.

Mr BEDDALL —I repeat the figures for honourable members in the House. Queensland growers pay $20 a tonne compared with $16 paid by growers in New South Wales. It is interesting to hear the doomsayers opposite talking about primary industry as if they were the only people concerned about the industry. The recent Queensland State Budget saw a decline in real terms in allocations for primary industry. In fact, the National Party member for Warwick said the State National Party Budget had done nothing for primary industry. Of the $100m given in the Budget, one- third came from grants from the Federal Government. Even the National Farmers Federation has recognised the hopelessness of those opposite. Mr McLachlan said:

The problem the Opposition's got at the present time is that it isn't representing the right-hand side of politics. It is not providing a viable alternative for anybody to vote for.

I congratulate the Minister on these Bills. I hope he actively continues to consult and encourage all primary producers. I look forward to the day he and I can visit the Darling Downs to discuss this Government's policies with the people whom I am seeking to represent. I commend the Bills to the House.