Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Abetz. I refer to the upcoming expiry on 30 September of the two-year agreement governing port access for bulk wheat exports. I also refer to comments by Liberal Senator Dean Smith that the full deregulation of Australia's wheat export arrangement is perfectly aligned to the government's deregulation and red-tape reduction agenda. Minister, is full deregulation government policy?
I think everybody knows that the government's position on all these matters is to provide a practical, common sense approach. Whilst we on this side generally like to approach issues on the basis of having as little red or green tape or regulation around an issue, we fully understand that there is a need for regulation. Therefore, the issue is getting the balance right. That is what the government has sought to do in a whole range of areas, including the one that the honourable senator addresses. And that is what we will continue to do in all our policy endeavours as we try to ensure that the very best outcome is achieved for Australian producers—in this case, wheat—and in other areas, as well. We will seek to draw the proper balance between competing interests and the different concerns that are expressed. Senator Smith has quite rightly expressed a particular approach. But the government's approach is as currently stated and as is currently in place.
We need appropriate regulation of monopoly or near-monopoly uncompetitive port zones as we currently have in NSW.
Minister, is full regulation government policy?
The member for Hume has expressed a particular point of view. We on this side do allow our members to actually express a point of view—to advocate, to ventilate particular approaches that they believe are worthy of public consideration.
Senator Kim Carr interjecting—
Because one person has expressed such a view does not mean that it is government policy. Government policy is government policy, and it stands to reason that from time to time there will be colleagues expressing a particular point of view. We saw it in the Labor Party in relation to getting rid of the mining tax. I recall the good former senator Mark Bishop expressing very strong views in relation to that.
I rise on a point of order. While the minister has been giving very worthwhile information, the question was: is full regulation government policy? We would like to have that confirmed, or not, on the record.
I was wondering where this silly line of questioning was going to end. It really did reach a crescendo of silliness with the senator's assertion that there is any disunity in the coalition party room on these matters. So it is my melancholy duty to advise the senator that there is no such disunity!