Wheat Marketing Amendment Bill

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:01): I will just make a brief contribution to support the expiry of the Wheat Marketing Act. I will not go back over other members' contributions. In December 2012, the commonwealth passed legislation to abolish the Wheat Export Accreditation Scheme, effectively fully deregulating bulk wheat exports, and so this meant that the Wheat Marketing Act 1989 was largely redundant legislation. The only useful purpose of the Wheat Marketing Act 1989 was to provide the head of power authorising the collection of voluntary contributions to the grain research fund administered by the South Australian Grains Industry Trust.

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:01): I will just make a brief contribution to support the expiry of the Wheat Marketing Act. I will not go back over other members' contributions. In December 2012, the commonwealth passed legislation to abolish the Wheat Export Accreditation Scheme, effectively fully deregulating bulk wheat exports, and so this meant that the Wheat Marketing Act 1989 was largely redundant legislation. The only useful purpose of the Wheat Marketing Act 1989 was to provide the head of power authorising the collection of voluntary contributions to the grain research fund administered by the South Australian Grains Industry Trust.


The grains industry fund, also established under the Wheat Marketing Act through the SAFF Grains Section Fund, has already been replaced by a new fund established under the Primary Industry Funding Schemes Act which came in during 1998 and so the change from SAFF to Primary Producers SA. In April this year the South Australian Farmers Federation disbanded following an industry meeting in Adelaide.

The decision comes as South Australian farmers struggle to meet acute levels of debt, to manage depreciation of land values and skyrocketing production costs. I think a lot of that was due primarily to the drought and that led to uncertainty; the perception of the members that they were not getting the value that they thought they should have. The new model has the potential to work better in the political arena, particularly with the good work of the Hon. Rob Kerin, to make a one-stop shop, and Primary Producers SA essentially will provide that one-stop shop.

It does create ease for government. It does create a go-to centre or a go-to organisation for lobbyists, for government to make decisions, for ministers to seek support for government policy, but it also helps with the grain producers themselves—the farmers that need the support. They need the mechanisms when decisions are being made. They need a go-to place to have their views and their concerns heard, and I think that Primary Producers SA will do that.

The new body under Primary Producers SA will represent the livestock, dairy, horticulture, wine grape and pork producers and other proposed commodities, and I think that most of these commodities organisations are like-minded. As a past chair of the South Australian Murray Irrigators, I can say that we were a one-stop shop for all irrigators in South Australia. Its worthiness was demonstrated by the fact that the media and the government would come to the organisation and that the irrigators themselves knew that, if they had a concern or if they had issues that needed to be dealt with, it was the place to go to.

I will speak a little about the background of the electorate of Chaffey. It has about 3,000 food producers, but it does have an emerging grain-growing industry. For many years, the Mallee has been widely regarded as marginal country, and rightly so, with very low rainfall. But through the good work of R&D, and field days, through the Murray Mallee dryland group, it has moved forward in leaps and bounds. I think that is the way in which representative groups need to be there. They need to provide representation, but they also need to give out good information and good feedback for the farming sector that relies on them. In today's environment, we are going to need that more and more in order to become cost effective and competitive but we also need to extract more out of less.

As I have said, in the marginal Mallee country we are seeing crops, particularly in the last five years, in terms of tonnage and quality of grain product, we would never have dreamed of taking away from that very marginal country 10 to 15 years ago. That is the result of groups working together and having good representation but also, importantly, that representation needs to be easily accessible and easily seen. I think they have proved that they are a worthy group in terms of extracting information and giving good information. When I say 'extracting', I mean extracting information from farmers to provide information to other farmers so that the farming groups can work together. When farming groups work together, they can benefit one another.

I think that it has been a competitive game forever, and a lot of farmers are reluctant to give up their advantage in relation to what they are doing on their property. It is about farmers looking over the fence at what is happening. It is about farmers getting around in their groups and getting around in their small field day exercises, looking over the fence and being able to access the information—exactly how and why. They can look at what their neighbour is doing and benefit from it. That is something that particularly the grain industry and horticulture and viticulture have all benefited from—that is, dropping the barriers and opening the gate for the neighbour to come in to have a look for him to benefit.

For a neighbour to be able to benefit from their neighbour's divulging evidence of their practice is good not only for the farmer but also for the region, and then it flows on. Then it is good for the state and, if it is good for the state, it is good for our economy, and what is good for our economy is good for everybody because it does have a significant flow-on effect.

Some of that research, development and extension work has been eroded over the last decade perhaps. We see government decisions where R&D particularly is an easy target with budgetary cuts. It is an easy target if it is not your priority; potentially, it is an easy target if it is not your voting population. Over the last four or five years, coming into this political sphere I have noted with great concern—and I do not want to point a finger at any particular government—that particularly for the last 10 years we have had a government that continues to defund programs, projects and research centres and to put the onus on industry.

I do not have a problem with industry taking ownership of what they are about, selling their products for the betterment of themselves and their organisations, but there also needs to be that independent arm giving out advice, giving out the good oil on where the industry is going, on where their markets can emerge and just exactly where the types and the varieties will be on demand. It is about sharing the information; it is about sharing the knowledge. It really is something that all commodities within agriculture, horticulture, and viticulture—all the food growing sectors—need to understand, that withholding information, withholding representation is not doing anyone any good in the long-term; short-term—sure.

We may have a farmer who has the best looking paddocks, the biggest sheds, and the best equipment, but overall when we come to the tough times, it is their region that suffers and in turn that flows onto the state suffering. As I have said, once the state suffers, the economy suffers and then everyone suffers. It is something that I have looked at more intently over the last five or 10 years, and the barriers are being broken down. I think it is great to see that neighbours are befriending their neighbours now, rather than playing the competitive game.

We are seeing organisation, commodity groups now working together with other commodity groups, and I think that is potentially how the Primary Producers SA will work. I would like to recommend that everyone in this house give support to primary industries and to those organisations, because, again, they have been the backbone. They have been the economic driver in this state for more than 100 years and they will continue to be one of the biggest economic drivers for the next 100 years and beyond, remembering that every paddock, every field that grows food, that grows produce, will grow it again next year. It is renewable.

When we look at our mining sector, we look at a greenfield site. The mining businesses, companies, come into it. They dig a hole, they remove the precious resource and then they fill the hole in and go away and it is gone. It is gone forever, because it has taken more than a lifetime for that resource to accumulate in the ground and become a valuable commodity. Again, it is about supporting an economic base with good representation here in South Australia to become a world leader. South Australia has been recognised as a world leader, but there is always scope, there is always room to become better. There is always scope to do what you do with a better return, to use better technology.

I think with what we have achieved there is more to be achieved, and I think a single desk, a single body representation, something like Primary Producers SA, will be an asset to South Australia. It will be an asset to our economic base. More importantly, it will enable us to put food on everyone's table on a regular basis. It will allow us to export that food and that produce on a regular basis, year in, year out. When we face drought again, when we face hard times, we will have the best evidence, and we will have the best assistance package or toolbox next to us, so that we can deal with those hard times in a much easier way and get on with life; we can be sustainable.

In rising to support the expiry of the Wheat Marketing Act, I think that it will be seen that it will be something that has been change, but it is about dealing with the future. The future here in South Australia is food; it is agriculture; it is horticulture; it is viticulture; it has been for 100 years and it will continue for the next 100 years.

speeches