House debates

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Wheat Marketing Amendment Bill 2006

Consideration in Detail

7:50 pm

Photo of Simon CreanSimon Crean (Hotham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Regional Development) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move amendments (1) and (2) together:

(1)    Schedule 1, page 3 (after line 4), before item 1, insert:

1A  Paragraph 5(1)(b)

Omit “and examine and report on the benefits to growers that result from that performance”.

(2)   Schedule 1, page 3 (after line 9), after item 1, insert:

1B  After subsection 57(7)

Insert:

     (7A)    Before 1 April 2007, the Minister must cause an independent review to be conducted of the following matters:

             (a)    the operation of subsection (1A) in relation to nominated company B;

             (b)    the conduct of nominated company B in relation to:

                   (i)    consultations for the purposes of subsection (3A); and

                  (ii)    the granting or withholding of approvals for the purposes of subsection (3B); and

                 (iii)    returns to growers;

             (c)    the economic impact of export wheat control arrangements on Australia’s domestic wheat market;

             (d)    the benefit of maintaining export wheat control arrangements;

             (e)    recommended changes to export wheat control arrangements;

              (f)    recommended changes to monitoring and reporting arrangements.

      (7B)    The review conducted in accordance with subsection (7A) is to have the same powers, procedures and protections of an inquiry conducted by the Productivity Commission in accordance with the Productivity Commission Act 1998.

      (7C)    A review under subsection (7A) is to be conducted by a panel nominated by the Minister by a written instrument.

     (7D)    An instrument prepared under subsection (7C) is a legislative instrument for the purposes of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003.

      (7E)    The Minister must cause a copy of the report of the review prepared in accordance with subsection (7A) to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 25 sitting days of that House after the day on which the Minister receives the report.

                   (i)    consultations for the purposes of subsection (3A); and

                  (ii)    the granting or withholding of approvals for the purposes of subsection (3B); and

                 (iii)    returns to growers;

These amendments will ensure the government, in consideration of where it goes in the future, does what it so dismally failed to do over recent months. It has had no regard to the way in which the Wheat Board has been conducting its single desk operations. That is why we have ended up with the scandal that we have. Despite all of the warnings it did not lift a finger to intervene and now it wants us to believe that leaving it to it and it alone will sort the direction out for the future. It will not. It has been negligent, it has been hopeless, they have maladministered it functions and a string of ministers for agriculture on the other side of the House have been totally failing in their duties and responsibilities to the wheat growers of Australia.

We need the sort of comprehensive review that was set up in periods in which Labor was in office. I remember setting reviews up into the wool industry, for example, and into the grains industries, the dairy industry and the sugar industry. We need independent assessment. We need to put the spotlight on the key issues that need to be addressed. The amendments that are proposed here talk about returns to growers being part of the review, along with the economic impact of export wheat control arrangements in this country, the benefit of maintaining export wheat control, the changes—if any—that are recommended to export wheat control and the putting in place for the future of appropriate monitoring and reporting arrangements. I do not know where the member for Gwydir got off in terms of the Wheat Export Authority, but it was totally negligent in its monitoring role and totally negligent in its reporting role—in fact, it made a virtue of the fact that it could not publicly report. No wonder that we got into the mess that we did.

I will not take any more time on this issue. We support these amendments. They are essential to go forward. I understand the circumstance in which this interim measure needs to be put in place, but the government has given no indication as to what its thinking is and is still without a clue as to the future. Let us put an independent body in place—something like the Productivity Commission—so at least they can get some decent input, because so far they have not had a clue. I commend the amendments to the House.

Very briefly, and so I do not have to get up again, I should address—as I said I would—the member for New England’s amendment. I understand the point, and it is essential in this process that there be full and proper consultation. At the end of it, I am not too sure that the member for New England’s proposition does not make sense; I am just not prepared at this stage of the game to, on behalf of the opposition, commit to that course of action. Let us get the review up. I would urge the House to support it. Let us make a judgement at the end of that as to how we take it out to the growers and consult with them. But at this stage we will not be supporting the amendment to be moved by the member for New England, even though I understand fully the intent and the goodwill with which he puts it forward.

Question put:

That the amendments (Mr Crean’s) be agreed to.

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