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Monday, 8 May 1989
Page: 1961

Senator GILES —My question is addressed to the Minister for Resources in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. Is the Minister aware of claims that wheatgrowers will experience higher costs as a result of the Government's legislation to de- regulate the domestic wheat market?

Senator COOK —Yes, I am aware of those claims but I do not place any store in them. In fact, those claims should be dismissed. My authority for dismissing them is the report of the McColl Royal Commission into Grain Storage, Handling and Transport. That Royal Commission report established that there would be savings of $10 per tonne on the transport of grain across Australia if the market were deregulated.

Senator Stone interjecting-

Senator COOK —It is interesting that Senator Stone should be interjecting. I would have thought he would be one of the senators in this place-despite weekend newspaper reports that all National Party of Australia senators are going to vote against the Government legislation-who would vote with the Government, given many of the writings that he has published supporting deregulation and economic reform. The fact that he is seeking preselection for Fairfax and, maybe, the National Party leadership in the other place ought not deter him from sticking with his principles and supporting deregulation in this case when he has the opportunity later this week. I will not be saying he is a hypocrite, walking away from his previous convictions and taking the easy course of appealing to sentiment within his own Party. His support for deregulation has been strong and I look forward to seeing him on this side of the chamber voting with us when the legislation comes up.

I return to the Royal Commission on Grain Storage, Handling and Transport. It stated that savings of $10 per tonne would be made on transporting grain across Australia. It said that the savings would not be uniform. The Commission found that in New South Wales the savings would be $11 a tonne; in Victoria the savings would be the same; and in Queensland the savings would be the highest of any State in the Commonwealth, $13 per tonne. In South Australia there would be a saving of $6 a tonne and in Western Australia the saving would be $7 per tonne. The total resource cost saving across Australia per annum would be $100m. The Government has of course committed itself to the deregulation of the wheat industry in the domestic market, and the growers, we believe, should be given greater freedom of choice to make decisions about how they dispose of their grain in the domestic market. We do not believe that that choice should be denied. In fact, if I look at recent writings I see that a former Liberal Party member in the other place, John Hyde, had this to say:

National Party whingers should consider the national interest instead of the interests of the bosses in the wheat industry. A few National Party wimps should not be allowed to damage not only the Federal coalition but the wheat industry and the nation over this matter.

Senator McGauran —He lost his seat.

Senator COOK —I should have thought that Senator McGauran was the last person in this chamber to have anything at all to say about it. The outcome of his intervention is that John Howard has negotiated an unwinnable No. 4 spot for him on the Victorian Senate ticket. He has been gullible enough to accept that as the price of `peace in our time' in his party. The other thing of great distinction that has occurred to the honourable senator in the last week is his having allowed himself to be monstered by Wilson Tuckey. I should have been surprised that anyone here would fall for that because, first, Wilson Tuckey--

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister is clearly getting away from the area of the question he was asked.

Senator COOK —Thank you, Mr President. I shall conclude my answer on the point by saying that no-one here would have allowed himself to be monstered by Wilson Tuckey because, first, he was not being held down; second, he did not have steel cable; and, third, he is not black.


Senator Stone —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Will you insist that the Minister, if he wishes to make remarks about honourable senators, do so by addressing those remarks through you?

The PRESIDENT —Thank you, Senator Stone.