Labor government gags wheat farmers
The Productivity Commission has admitted that the timing of its inquiry into Wheat Exporting Marketing Arrangements is “inopportune” for wheat growers.
Senator Fiona Nash, the Deputy Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, said the Commission has called for submissions to be lodged by Friday, November 13. “This will indeed be a Black Friday for growers because they are too busy working around the clock on the harvest to stop and write a submission.
“John Salerian, Assistant Commissioner, has responded to an email from one grower by saying: ‘We appreciate that the timing of the initial hearings and regional forms is inopportune for wheat growers. However, the timetable for the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the Wheat Export Marketing Arrangements is beyond its control’.”
Senator Nash said this setting of the agenda and wrong timetable was typical of the Rudd Labor Government not understanding the pressures on food producers. “This is the very industry that had its wheat marketing system upended with the closure of the single desk and now the Government is making it practically impossible for growers to participate in the inquiry they were promised to see if the new marketing arrangements are working.
“Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has tried to wash his hands by blaming the Coalition for the timing of the inquiry, but the legislation stated that it must start by 1 January 2010 and conclude by 1 July 2010. Surely a body as efficient as the Productivity Commission could hold an inquiry in six months,” Senator Nash said. “Was it the Minister who said the inquiry process had to start to coincide with the harvest?”
Rankin Springs grower Jock Munro said there was no reason the deadline for submissions could not be extended and the public hearings held at a more convenient time for growers.
“Growers do not have the time now to consider the important questions,” Mr Munro said. “Some of them feel helpless because they are simply too busy to write a submission. It really is hopeless and demeaning to them and is a continuation of the contempt that has been shown to growers by the Labor Government when it deregulated the industry against the wishes of producers.”
Senator Nash urged the Productivity Commission and the Government to make it possible for more growers to be involved by granting an extension. “Think of it as an early Christmas present to growers Mr Burke,” she said.