Draft bill a boost to wheat exports

Draft legislation to reform Australia’s wheat export marketing arrangements was released yesterday and is a significant step towards liberalising wheat exports.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke said the draft legislation has been released to allow the wider community to comment on the detail of the reforms.

“The Government is committed to delivering on its election commitments, including reforming wheat marketing arrangements,” Mr Burke said.

“We want to have a regulated but competitive market which gives growers the opportunity to sell to reputable traders.

“We will continue to consult with growers and peak industry groups to ensure these reforms are as effective as possible.

“This includes informing wheat farmers about the changes and ensuring appropriate checks and balances are in place to protect growers’ interests.”

The legislation will establish a new industry regulator, Wheat Exports Australia (WEA), and give it the power to administer a wheat export accreditation scheme.

A wheat export applicant must meet a number of tests, including:

• it must be a corporation

• it must be a fit and proper company to trade in wheat and

• if the applicant operates a port terminal facility for bulk grain, it must have an access arrangement in place.

After 30 September 2009, those access arrangements must be agreed to by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Prior to that, the company must commit to grant access and publish the terms and conditions for that access.

The legislation will also empower Wheat Exports Australia to suspend or revoke accreditation, where conditions have been breached.

The Minister would retain the power to direct the regulator to investigate a matter and companies will be required to provide annual compliance reports and certain export data.

“This is about creating new opportunities for wheat growers, within a transparent and rigorous regulatory framework,” Mr Burke said.

“We will create a modern and competitive market which rewards companies for the quality of their commercial operations and financial capacity.”

The draft Wheat Export Marketing Bill 2008 and explanatory notes will be available on the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website.

Comments must be submitted at before 3 April 2008.

The final legislation is then expected to be introduced to Parliament by May, ahead of the planned implementation of the reforms by 1 July 2008.

The new legislation is widely expected to further encourage wheat exports by smaller traders, who predominantly use containerised shipping. Recent divestment by Pacific National in the bulk grain rail business and the migration of wheat wagons to the mining industry will also make containerised wheat exports more attractive.

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