Rephrase the question on wheat

WHAT is it about the Australian wheat industry and the word regulation that sends it into a frenzy?

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.

Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


10/10/2012 5:51:47 AM

yeah , good one Gregor, thanks for enlightening us with your valuable insight. It's a pity you couldn't see any of this stuff coming when others among us were shouting it from the steps of parliament house. Why don't you take this enlightenment to WA and educate the know-alls over there
10/10/2012 7:59:46 AM

As a "know all " from WA ,I make the following comments. WA and SA are primarily Export and have funded a significant part of WEA. .For only the second time ever have the two principle grain grower bodies from WA agreed on a major grain issue ( GM the other)-GET RID OF WEA. eastern states growers sold their share ( and soul) in the industry-WA growers still control a major component re CBH. Perhaps a WEA model with a levy on all wheat, Export and Domestic so the Eastern States contribute their fair share!!! I think not !
10/10/2012 8:56:58 AM

If the pollies want to make a significant contribution to the grains industry they would be better off directing their energies towards establishing a multi peril crop insurance scheme to help alleviate the devastating effects of frosts and low rainfall. Stop arguing over a piddly 22 cents a tonne levy get rid of it, we have a deregulated grains industry. Levy every grain grower in australia $5.00/tn which could go towards establishing and underwriting a multi peril crop insurance scheme. A frustrated W.A.grain grower.
10/10/2012 9:59:23 AM

Deregulate now WEA is a nonsence and not needed. Let a free and open market prevail and watch prices we get be the true value. National Party are a blight on Australian Agriculture with their protectionist ideas.
10/10/2012 2:34:39 PM

Well said about bloody time the WEA uselessness was stated. Why not levy all wheat users? Domestic market want/demand seats on committees but pay nothing and get the same benefits as export. New WEA is not about regulation it is about industry good functions the bits that have been handed to the traders and those with vested interests and deep enough pockets to buy a seat (GTA and WQA). Here's a novel idea let WA deregulate and the East Coast have these functions via a levy. The only thing WA have going for them is location, their wheat is rubbish quality.
farmer joe
11/10/2012 5:02:09 AM

Gregor is spot on. Let the debate focus on the real issues. It is not about single desk and never has been. It is time the WAllies stopped misleading the debate and the rest of the media reported responsibly like Gregor. The accreditation scheme is obsolete, but the need for oversight of not and we need a well resourced and independent watch dog making sure their is fair access to port for competition and making sure their is enough stock information for the market to function and that our internation reputation as a supplier of quality wheat is protected.
11/10/2012 10:48:27 AM

WEA was always about looking like the pollies were doing something whilst doing nothing. The IEG for wheat was there to throw the industry good areas to the four winds at the behest of the Libs/Labour and their own self interest. There is no independant information on customer quality issues, just self serving tripe from the major traders that it is all fine "trust us we're responsible people" what they leave off is lining their own pockets is their main responsibility.

Interesting stuff there - and no, Farmer Joe is not one of my aliases - thanks for the vote of confidence.

Mark, don't know that you were singing this stuff from the steps of Parliament House - you were all about an orderly marketing system - that's fine, but that's not what I'm talking about.

The domestic v export focus really has to be considered if WEA's role is to alter from a strict monitoring of exports, even though its only a 22c/t levy, it still needs to be fair if WEA gets into industry good functions.

I agree with those who want some sort of watchdog there, if it can be done with such a small levy, then I think growers will be happy to have someone independent watching the space.

The trade can have its voluntary code, its a great idea, but its disingenous to suggest many growers are going to be happy, at least initially, to blindly follow a Sir Joh style 'don't you worry about that' approach to exports.

Posted by moderator: Gregor Heard on 12/10/2012 8:59:45 AM
15/10/2012 4:20:02 PM

Its funny isn't it? This demand for information of stocks only relates to export stocks. Wonder how East Coast growers will react when they are also compelled to release on farm stock information. What is good for the goose is good for the gander! Just like the old Single Desk days, an East Coast drought and those growers focussed on domestic opportunities leaving the cost of the pools to WA growers. Socialism until it costs you eh boys!
25/11/2012 12:50:59 PM

Without the West, there is no reliable exportable surpluses out of this country. So it is no surprise when there are calls for regulation, no matter how subtle, the WA producer who enjoyed the fruits of deregulation gets very wary. After all, for all those Single Desk years the rhetoric over the value of it turned out to be a complete lie. WA is very happy to continue to enjoy the premiums for our export advantage, just as the East Coast grower enjoys the fruits of a robust domestic market. Get off your horse Mark.
Grain of TruthRural Press grains writer Gregor Heard on the big issues facing the broadacre farmers today.


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