Meet the Coalition’s socialists. At least with Weet Bix
The Coalition’s pledge to shrink the size of government and the reach of government regulation has hit a furrow in the wheat fields of Australia where deregulation is sometimes seen as a fad.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott this week is determined to steer his troops away from accepting the full deregulation of the wheat market and probably will succeed with most of them.
In fact, it might not hurt Mr Abbott were a couple of his MPs to abstain or otherwise protest against the legislation. It would reinforce the “we’re not Stalanists” line he has been using on the freedom of Coalition backbenchers.
But there also is the broader question of political philosophy. Why would it be good to deregulate the labour market and expose workers to greater competition, but not OK to open up the centralised grains market?
NSW Nationals senator Fiona Nash has condemned “deregulation for deregulation’s sake” and said this can leave to “stupid decisions”.
Mr Abbott has said there should be a a transition in the changes to marketing wheat, a reasonable proposal given the potential effect on farmers. But Mr Abbott is arguing that the reason for a slow deregulation is the “record of incompetence and untrustworthiness” of the current government.
East coast Coalition MPs aren’t the only ones dubious about the Government’s move to complete the decentralisation of wheat marketing started after a scandal centred on the Australian Wheat Board’s $290 million in bribes in Iraq a decade ago.
The House of Representatives independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott and the Greens MP Adam Bandt will also be looking closely at the proposal. However, the legislation, to be introduced before the end of the year, is expected to pass the House.
It is in the Senate where the biggest fight, and the possibility of Coalition protests, is likely to erupt.
It’s not unusual to yearn for days gone by but the rural outposts of the National and Liberal parties want to revive a specific period of agrarian socialism.
Senator Nash made this clear in Parliament on September 20 while debating deregulation of wheat marketing.
“Well, I will absolutely say on record I am pining for the single desk for wheat,” she said.
“I think getting rid of the single desk for wheat was one of the most stupid decisions a government has ever made and to just philosophically go down the line of deregulation for deregulation’s sake was just simply stupid.
“I say that in the light of now we have growers who are not being paid for wheat they have sold because there is no certainty underpinning that payment for them in many of these instances and that is wrong and that is as a direct result of the deregulation of the wheat industry in many instances.”
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