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Get off farmers' backs and abolish the National Competition Council.



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Australian Democrats Press Releases

Senator John Cherry Democrats Senator for Queensland Australian Democrats spokesperson for Agriculture Australian Democrats spokesperson for Regional Development & Services

Dated: 16 February 2005 Press Release Number: 05/071 Portfolio: Agriculture Related: Regional Development & Services

Get off farmers' backs and abolish the National Competition Council

The National Competition Council (NCC) should be abolished, its $181 million of recommended fines on the States waived in full, and NCC Policy reviews ended, according to the Australian Democrats. Democrats Agriculture spokesperson Senator John Cherry, in Bunbury today, says the NCC has been targeting West Australian barley, grain, potato and egg marketing arrangements, threatening substantial fines if the State Government does not comply with its harsh, ideological agenda. "The deregulations recommended by the NCC will clearly leave farmers worse off, just as the NCC-driven deregulation of the dairy industry left dairy farmers worse off. "Since dairy deregulation four years ago, the big retailers have increased their share of milk prices from 17% to 22%, while the share going to struggling dairy farmers fell from 42% to 25%. "Despite this evidence, Federal Treasurer Peter Costello accepted, without amendment, last year's NCC recommendation for $181 million in fines on the States for not proceeding with more deregulation. As a result, the State Labor Governments have largely given in," Senator Cherry said. "West Australia was threatened with fines of $41 million in reduced Government grants if it did not deregulate potato, egg and grain marketing and also deregulate trading hours and liquor sales. "While the Gallop Government caved in on egg marketing, it was forced to cop a fine of $3.8 million for its approach on potato marketing, and forced to launch a review of grains marketing as well." Senator Cherry says the NCC has also criticised the Federal Government for its retention of the single desk for wheat. "The time has come to end this madness. Orderly marketing arrangements for farmers are essential to redress the imbalance in market power between farmers and their buyers," Senator Cherry said. Democrats Upper House candidate for the South West region, Adam Welch, says farmers' incomes would fall to the gain of big retailers and processors without orderly marketing arrangements. "The NCC needs to get off the backs of farmers and small retailers and recognise

that States have the right to protect the small against big, powerful interests. The only winners out of its reforms have been big business, particularly the two big retail chains. Farmers are clear losers and consumers will suffer in the long run. "The Democrats Competition Policy calls for a tougher Trade Practices Act to protect farmers and small businesses, including giving the ACCC the power to order market dominant firms to divest themselves of part of their operations to encourage competition," Mr Welch said.