Labor has combined with the Greens, independent MPs and WA Nationals MP Tony Crook to push through legislation to fully deregulate the wheat industry.
Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig confirmed today the Government would support Greens amendments, including the formation of an expert industry taskforce to deal with stock reporting and wheat export standards.
A last ditch attempt by coalition agriculture spokesman John Cobb to amend the bill in the lower house and delay deregulation was defeated 66 votes to 70.
WA Nationals MP Tony Crook crossed the floor to join the Government, alongside independents Peter Slipper, Rob Oakeshott and Green Adam Bandt.
Mr Crook told parliament he had received a lot of criticism, much of it from the coalition, about his decision to support final deregulation.
“I’m not supporting a Labor bill, I’m supporting Western Australian wheat growers and the Western Australian wheat industry,” he told parliament before voting with the Government.
An overwhelming majority of WA growers, the nation’s largest wheat exporters wanted the bill and wanted it now, Mr Crook said.
“There was no other choice to be made.”
Former coalition MP turned independent Peter Slipper launched a stinging attack on deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop for her decision not to support the views of WA wheat growers.
“The Liberal party’s position has no political credibility at all and it’s all about naked politics,” he said.
“The approach being urged upon Liberal party members by the deputy leader of the opposition indicates that the Liberal party is resigning from its political principles.”
Mr Slipper said while it was not historically a government of free enterprise, Labor had had the courage to introduce the bill and he had not abandoned his conservative values.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said before the vote that the Liberals were taking the opposite approach to free enterprise by voting against the legislation.
“I feel for those members of the Liberal party who actually believe in free enterprise,” Mr Burke told parliament.
“Unless they cross the floor they are about to vote against it.”
Mr Burke said he had some level of respect for the National party position because they had been consistent in their opposition to the dismantling of the single desk and market deregulation.
The Liberal party’s history on deregulation would be fundamentally changed by the vote, he said.
NSW Liberal MP Alby Schulz reversed his decision to cross the floor and supported the coalition, alongside NSW independent MP Tony Windsor.
WA Liberal Dennis Jensen abstained from voting after earlier telling the lower house he could not oppose the bill.
The Wheat Export Marketing Amendment Bill 2012 was passed, 70 votes to 67.It now goes to the Senate for consideration.
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