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Thursday, 1 June 1989
Page: 3250


Senator STONE (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(4.54) —I do not want to detain the Committee because we have been through this issue almost exhaustively. The facts of the matter are, as stated by my colleague Senator Lewis, that the Bill having been brought back to this chamber yesterday, the Opposition, in good faith, has sought to give the Government a further period for consideration of the possibility of agreeing to the four amendments which Senator Lewis outlined yesterday. At that time I supported him in outlining them. The amendments concerned the guaranteed minimum price arrangements, the question of a grower chairman and the composition of the Board, the application of the Trade Practices Act to the intrastate trade in wheat, and the degree of grower control of funds contributed by levies on wheat growers-not government funds but funds contributed by levies on wheat growers.

The Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Ray, informed us-he did so because the Minister responsible was not present-a moment ago that this afternoon in the other place the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Mr Kerin, gave the Government's answer by way of a response to a dorothy dix question, thereby compounding the series of discourtesies to this place of which the Minister has been guilty throughout his whole handling of this matter. That was merely another small element in the total shabby process on which the Government has embarked.

As my colleague Senator Lewis has said, the Government's principal activity in all this has been to divide the coalition parties. It will not succeed in doing so. The coalition parties will remain united for the overwhelmingly important purpose for which the people of this country want them to remain united, and that is to get rid of this Government, a task in which we propose to be successful as soon as the Government gives us the opportunity to do so. I will not pursue that point. I simply lay it very clearly on the line that that mine has been mined out as far as the Government is concerned.

Yesterday Senator Lewis, in good faith, gave the Government an opportunity to respond sensibly, and after consideration overnight, to his suggestions. The Government has told us today quite clearly that it proposes to say nothing other than to present us with two fingers on that matter and that basically, as far as the Government and Mr Kerin are concerned, the wheat growers of this country can go and jump. If that is the message which the Government wants to convey to wheat growers, we will do our best to assist it in that regard.

In light of the diversionary remarks by the Democrat speaker who preceded me, I make it clear that at this stage the debate has nothing to do with deregulation of the wheat industry. As I said yesterday, the one comment with which I agreed in the threatening letter which Mr Kerin wrote to all honourable senators was that the deregulation debate was over. It was over at the time he wrote that letter; as he said quite rightly in that respect, two weeks earlier. For Senator Powell to yap away today about deregulation and matters of that kind is simply an illustration of how out of date and far behind the times the Democrats have become in this matter. The very idea of the Australian Democrats standing up in this place and presenting themselves as the champions of the wheat farmers of Australia is almost as bizarre as having the League of Rights stand up in that categorisation. There is a resemblance between the two groups in some respects. They are both always skirmishing around the fringes of whatever issue happens to be current at the time with a view to picking up a vote or two in their usual jackal-like manner.

I join with Senator Lewis in expressing disappointment-I will refrain from using stronger words than that-at the attitude which the Government has indicated it proposes to adopt to this legislation. That having been said, I propose to sit down so we can get on with the business of getting rid of the Bill.