WHAT is it about the Australian wheat industry and the word regulation that sends it into a frenzy?
The current saga regarding changes to the Wheat Marketing Act causing so much friction in the Federal Coalition is all about rhetoric and very little to do with the core question of whether Wheat Exports Australia (WEA) should be retained.
How on earth has the question of regulation even entered the debate?
Let’s get this straight: we’re essentially operating in a deregulated environment right now, the question is whether we do away with the port access test and whether or not there is a role into the future for WEA.
All this background noise about regulation is a nonsense and is damaging to formulating a solution to the actual question – nothing about the Wheat Marketing Act relates to regulation, or the ridiculous notion that it is a de facto reformation of the single desk.
First things first: the bulk exporting accreditation process can be wound up.
The accreditation process, for all its talk of ‘fit and proper’ companies, does not provide any assurance or support for growers. All it does is certify that a company is operational on the day it submitted the paperwork – it provides no value for anyone in the supply chain.
This brings us to the far more vexed subject of the port access test – the major bone of contention.
The question needs to be twofold. Will there be a need for a port access test in 20 years time? Probably not, but rephrase that question – is there a need for port access regulation this year, and I’d say the answer is yes.
In spite of good initiatives such as the Grain Trade Australia voluntary code of conduct I just don’t feel the industry is mature enough for self-regulation just yet.
Others may disagree – but why the massive rush – a couple of years to hammer out all the issues between the trade which need to be addressed would be a godsend.
There seems to be a real push for action for action’s sake on this one and taking some time out to develop a watertight voluntary process, rather than rushing in.
People are talking about cost – but I think at this stage the majority of growers would be happy with the 22 cents a tonne levy to fund Wheat Exports Australia.
That’s my own opinion and there’s plenty of other valuable points to be made on the topic – but please, let’s focus on the debate on what it is, and not as the launching point for some rhetoric-heavy ideological crusade.