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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11257


Mr CHAMPION (3:27 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Will the minister update the House on recent commentary about the Productivity Commission’s review into wheat-exporting arrangements?


Mr BURKE (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the member for Wakefield for the question. Members may be unaware that yesterday the National Party got really mad. In a very cranky media release yesterday, the shadow minister for agriculture referred to the Productivity Commission review of the wheat export marketing arrangements. He was concerned about the timing of it and the timing of the first period for submissions coinciding with the wheat harvest. In his media release, he said: ‘Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the wheat industry in Australia’—


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister is responsible for many things, but one of them is not commentary. Apart from the fact that the question should have been ruled out of order, his answer cannot be relevant if he is making commentary. I would ask you—


The SPEAKER —The member will resume his seat. The question was allowed by the chair. The minister was called; the minister is responding to the question.


Mr BURKE —As the shadow minister said, this is ‘the busiest time of the year for grain growers with harvest in full swing.’ He went on to say that anybody who would have called for this timetable, referring particularly to my office and the Productivity Commission, ‘knows absolutely nothing about the wheat industry’ and ‘is devoid of any basic agriculture expertise.’ The problem that the shadow minister did not refer to is that the Productivity Commission actually had no discretion as to the timing of this review. The legislation itself, under section 89, demands that the review be held—


Dr Southcott —Mr Speaker, a point order on relevance: yesterday the minister gave a straight answer. He has today—


The SPEAKER —Order! The member will resume his seat.


Dr Southcott interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! The member has not got the call.


Dr Southcott interjecting


The SPEAKER —The member is warned! The minister was responding to the question in a direct manner at the point in time that he was interrupted by the point of order.

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —I regret that from time to time there are such brave souls who want to make comments by interjection. Given that in this case that was the conclusion of a member who hides behind interjections about whether the question should have been in order or not, and they were not willing to raise the point of order at that point in time, I would suggest that the member just sit there quietly. The minister has the call.


Mr BURKE —The time frame that is within section 89 of the act actually gives the Productivity Commission no discretion at all as to the timing. The question is, why is that time frame in the legislation? Why is it in section 89 in that way? When the bill was introduced in this House it did not have the tight time frame that demanded the submission period be right now. The reason it was changed was because of an amendment moved in the Senate by Senator Minchin and supported in the Senate by Senator Joyce. The only reason that time frame is in existence and the Productivity Commission has no discretion whatsoever on the timing is because of coalition amendments in the Senate that apparently, according to the shadow minister, would have been made by people ‘devoid of any basic agriculture expertise.’

While I will admit that the Liberal Party did play a constructive role generally in dealing with the wheat marketing issue, the Nationals would be better off getting the parents on the sideline to say, ‘No, you are meant to be running that way.’ Instead we have got a party that is still pining for the days when wheat farmers were told who they had to sell to, still pining for the days when there was no such thing as a climate scientist and still pining for the days before Menzies when there was no such thing as the Liberal Party.


Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.