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Thursday, 11 May 1989
Page: 2401

Senator COOK (Minister for Resources)(11.28) —The Government resists with all the passion that is equal to that expressed from the Opposition, but with a little more to overwhelm it, the amendment that has been moved by Senator Lewis and supported by the Australian Democrats. This for us is one of those issues that we would contest strongly, and I have no doubt that when this legislation now goes back to the House of Representatives the Government will be defending its position again. However, I do not propose to call for a division but note for the record that had the call gone against us, as I would expect given the remarks around the chamber, we would have sought a division to record our position on the matter.

I should say in passing as well that Senator Panizza made a statement that Senator Walsh, my ministerial colleague, misled the Senate. I would have normally raised a point of order. I did not due to the lateness of the hour, but I would assert on Senator Walsh's behalf, absent as he is, that that is not the case, and allow the argument between Senator Panizza and Senator Walsh to flourish at another time.

Let me now address myself to the reason why it is that the Government feels so strongly about this amendment. Government policy is to phase underwriting down, consistent with its broader policy of reducing government involvement in statutory marketing, industry taking greater responsibility for its own risk management and greater commercialisation of the board. it should be remembered too that that level is initially 90 per cent, phasing down to 80 per cent, the reduction in the level is therefore gradual. Even with underwriting at 80 per cent the wheat industry is favourably treated compared with other industries.

Provision is also made for the industry to fund advances in excess of the underwritten level. I understand however that the industry is not disposed to do this because it considers it is not worthwhile.

If it is true that in pre-Gorbachev Russia some of the best novels remained in the drawers of their authors for fear of persecution, it is also true in the way in which we are dealing with this legislation that some of the best speeches that could be made in the Senate remain in our drawers. I would have liked to have made a good speech on this subject. I will not tonight; maybe I will get an opportunity later. But we indicate that we resist this amendment with the energy equal to that which would take it to a division if necessary.

Amendment agreed to.