Wednesday, 4 March 2015
Regulations and Determinations
Competition and Consumer (Industry Code — Port Terminal Access (Bulk Wheat)) Regulation 2014; Disallowance
I rise to speak to the disallowance motion I have moved along with Senator Leyonhjelm. I do so because I believe there is no reason to treat two corporate entities differently under the law. In doing so, I am compelled to draw upon the life and times of a great South Australian, the late Mr Bert Kelly, a former member for Wakefield. Bert went into politics knowing at the time what needed to be done, and for the next 20 years he educated his colleagues and the nation about the evils of protectionism. His leadership in this area was so successful that everyone thought protection would be irreversible. They were wrong, of course; it was not irreversible. Many years after the protectionist debate was over, Bert was still on his guard. 'The really bad ideas,' he once said to me, 'never go away.' Exempting CBH from port access conditions that apply to GrainCorp and other bodies is another one of those really bad ideas.
People who wish to make a profit have a variety of corporate structures from which to choose. They may opt to work as a sole trader, form a partnership, incorporate a company and limit it by either shares or guarantee, or adopt a cooperative or mutual structure. GrainCorp is a company limited by shares. CBH is a cooperative, owned by its members. Both organisations are successful and profitable. And both, because they are not charities or not-for-profits, should therefore be treated identically.
There is a widespread but erroneous perception that CBH, because it is a cooperative, must be good, while GrainCorp, because it is a corporation, must be bad. But, as Senator Leyonhjelm has already pointed out in his contribution, this is simply not the case. Like any large business entity, CBH is more than capable of throwing its considerable weight around.
Ideally, Senator Leyonhjelm and I would prefer port access markets in Western Australia to be unregulated. However, if they are to be regulated, like cases must be treated alike. This is one of the most basic principles of the rule of law. Our disallowance motion prevents the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce—who I see is present in the chamber—from exempting CBH from port access conditions that apply to GrainCorp and other bodies. Cooperatives are not deserving, Minister, of this special treatment.