MP warns of free

28 Mar, 2002 07:00 PM
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By NIKKI ALLEN

DEREGULATION of the grains industry would provide benefits for big corporations and losses to consumers and farmers, according to Member for Kennedy (Qld) Bob Katter.

Mr Katter, a staunch opponent of deregulation, said grain farmers who thought they could do better on the free market were "bloody fools".

Citing the devastation caused to dairy and egg farmers, he said grain producers should learn from the lessons of National Competition Policy (NCP) history.

Nine months ago, Victoria deregulated its $100 million export barley industry and now there is strong support in NSW to follow suit due to price increases of $30/t.

Presently, the Grain Pool of WA has the rights to export barley, lupins and canola in WA and AWB Ltd has the rights to export bulk barley in SA.

Grainco Australia has the vesting powers for all Queensland barley exports, and the rights for all malt barley, export sorghum, feed barley and canola in NSW.

At a meeting of 150 farmers in the southern NSW town of Oaklands last month, 150 farmers supported a motion to reject the single-desk selling system for grain in favour of a deregulated market.

NSW Farmers Grains Committee chairman Angus Macneil, Oaklands, said that he wouldn't be surprised if support for regulation of grains marketing was insufficient to pass at the next NSW Annual Conference.

Grain trader Ray Brooks and Company's managing director Chris Brooks said Victorian growers had been receiving about $30/t more than NSW and SA growers because of deregulation.

Mr Katter said if deregulation was what growers were asking for, they would get it at their peril.

"I would not like to see the grains industry deregulated," he said.

Mr Katter said deregulation and privatisation had not delivered the benefits they were supposed to.

He said farmers were at the whim of two buyers, Woolworths and Coles, and a relative few people from the major cities had gained from deregulation.

"Deregulation has delivered over $400m in extra profit to the middle man and there is close to $750m a year in profit to the big retail chains principally as a result of deregulating the milk industry," he said.

If independents were to gain the balance of power in the next federal election, he said there would be no doubt that NCP would be closely looked at.

"I am certain there will be politicians in both parties who will be willing to ditch this unpopular theory if that is the price they have to pay for the status of government," he said.

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