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Thursday, 22 August 1985
Page: 135

Senator COLLARD (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(10.20) —The Opposition supports the current amendment as moved by Senator Grimes. This is one of those situations in which legislation was put up by the Government without real consultation with the wheat growers. That legislation did not meet the desires of those primary producers. The Opposition moved amendments and we then had a stand off situation in which the legislation went to and from both chambers. The legislation was returned to this chamber with a rather unique form of words involving a double negative. One had to look at the wording closely to determine which way one would vote. Be that as it may, a compromise has been reached. If that compromise had not been reached I think we would have seen the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) as the biggest wheat seller in the world.

Senator Grimes —We might have been better off.

Senator COLLARD —Maybe, but I think he would have had his work cut out bearing in mind all of the other duties that he has on his shoulders and the primary industry problems with which he is faced. However, that is the way we were heading.

I suppose that politics, like other things, is the art of compromise. We have reached the stage now where discussions, which, I might add, should have been held before, have taken place. The Government would not have been in the situation it found itself in if proper consultations, not only with the wheat growers but with other primary industries, had been conducted. The compromise is that the wheat growers will basically still have control on the Australian Wheat Board. I think that this arrangement is pretty essential because they are marketing their own product and the Board is funded by levies from wheat growers. The wheat growers were adamant that this should be the case and the Opposition concurred with their view. The compromise reached is that one of the four members with special expertise who will sit on the Board will be a wheat grower. That arrangement meets the demands of the wheat growers. As I said, the Opposition supports this amendment.

I might just add that we are talking about attracting people with special expertise to assist with the marketing of wheat. However, the Wheat Board, like all other statutory authorities, comes under Public Service guidelines. This can be rather restrictive when one is looking for top people who probably can command twice the salary offered by the Board if they work for private enterprise. This not only applies to the Wheat Board but also to all other government authorities. We will have to look at this situation some time in the future. However, I just make that point.

One could hardly let the opportunity pass without commenting on the deplorable situation concerning the Grain Handling Authority of New South Wales which is causing a loss of markets and a resultant loss of money to wheat growers. Some work has to be done and the GrainHandling Authority really has to get its act cleaned up. Some of the Authority's employees, who are among the highest paid workers in Australia, have gone on strike over ridiculous claims. They are not only damaging themselves but also are damaging Australia's reputation as a wheat growing nation and as a supplier. They are damaging the incomes of the primary producers of this nation and are certainly enhancing our reputation as an unreliable supplier of primary products and many other products. As I indicated, discussions have taken place and a compromise has been reached. As a result, the Opposition supports the amendment.