PM - Wheat growers urged to defend single desk
Friday, 2 February , 2007 18:18:00
Reporter: Alexandra Kirk
LISA MILLAR: Australia's farmers are being urged to lead from the front to defend the single desk for bulk wheat exports.
The National's Leader in the Senate, Ron Boswell warns if they don't, growers "risk the agenda being hijacked by the forces of deregulation". And that, he says, would play into the hands of heavily subsidised overseas competitors.
Senator Boswell is taking issue with the Grains Council of Australia, which won't release its wheat export position while a government-appointed committee is still holding hearings.
He told Alexandra Kirk, government decision makers should get information from the horse's mouth, rather than it being filtered by the government-appointed panel, chaired by businessman, John Ralph.
RON BOSWELL: The Grains Council are the peak body of the grain growers in Australia and if the grain growers lay down a policy on the sixth of February and that policy is that the AWBI (Australian Wheat Board International) hold the single desk, then I would imagine that the Grains Council would have to agree to that and that would become part of their policy.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: But does this ignore how worried you are that businessman, John Ralph, former Woolworths chief, Roger Corbett and a former head of Farmers Federation, Peter Corish, won't be big supporters of retaining the single desk wheat export policy and may recommend, or you think will recommend that the single wheat exporting authority be disbanded?
RON BOSWELL: Look, I can't know what those people will recommend, but all I know is that if you have a peak body, that peak body must respond to the delegates that are elected by wheat growers around Australia and that is how you get your measure to the Government, by having a policy, a single policy that represents all States and the peak body should respond to the delegates, the wheat growers delegates.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: Isn't it enough that wheat growers will turn up to …
RON BOSWELL: They may …
ALEXANDRA KIRK: …and tell the Government committee what they think?
RON BOSWELL: … turn up to the consultations and they will let some people know what they think, but Mr Corbett's a grocer and he always tells us that he is a grocer. He is not an expert on wheat.
The wheat growers know what they want and it should come through their peak body, and that peak body meets on the sixth of February and I am saying, I am calling on the sixth of February so we in Parliament know exactly what the wheat growers of Australia want. We can make our decisions on their policy.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: And you think their policy position will be the same as yours, and that is to continue, what has up until now, been a single desk organisation owned by growers?
RON BOSWELL: I believe their policy will be in support of the single desk and that single desk in all practical terms should be the AWBI Limited.
But it's not me that's enunciating the policy, the grain growers are enunciating the policy and putting that to their delegates. I'm only responding to the delegates and what I'm saying to the delegates and grain growers of Australia, make your decision, set your policy up in your peak body. You don't need other people to interpret what you need. You know what you need.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: Why do you think the Grains Council has taken this position?
RON BOSWELL: I don't know why the Grains Council has taken that position, but I think the Grains Council is out of line with their growers. All I am hearing from the growers and the vast majority of them, they want the single desk and I'm saying to them make your decision in your peak body, we will understand it as parliamentarians, and we will be able to respond to it.
LISA MILLAR: That's Nationals Leader in the Senate, Ron Boswell, speaking with Alexandra Kirk.