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Battling Libs struggle for face-saving wheat deal
Battling Libs struggle for face-saving wheat deal

WA Federal Liberal MPs are scrambling for a face-saving compromise on wheat deregulation despite Tony Abbott declaring internal debate on the issue over.

WA Liberal Chris Back has drafted an amendment to the Gillard Government's legislation with a view to allowing conditional abolition of Wheat Exports Australia.

Senator Back has proposed the coalition demand an industry code of conduct be finalised before supporting further deregulation.

"One of the key points from almost everyone interested in the outcome are the matters of port access, the code of practice for the industry and who should take responsibility for the implementation and control," Senator Back wrote to WA colleagues ahead of Parliament resuming today.

The coalition officially wants to defer abolishing the WEA for two years to allow the government of the day to "modify" the agency or "replace it with another body" - a position many WA Liberals feel contradicts supposed support for deregulation.

Senator Back's proposal is likely to be raised in the coalition party room today despite the Opposition Leader yesterday appearing to shut the door on compromise.

"I'm confident that we'll stick with the judgment call that we've made," Mr Abbott said.

"We have a strong commitment to deregulation of the wheat industry but it's got to be a managed transition."

WA Nationals MP Tony Crook will cross the floor to support the Government's Bill and NSW Liberal Alby Schultz will show his support by abstaining from the vote.

At least one WA Liberal MP is considering similar action.

Mr Abbott said three issues had to be resolved before the industry could be "responsibly" deregulated - port access, quality control and market information.

But Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said abolishing the WEA would not affect ports access because this would continue to be the responsibility of watchdog Australian Competition and Consumer Commission until 2014.

He said grain quality and stock information have never been within the remit of the WEA.