Contrary to all the headlines, nothing much really happened to the wheat export monopoly yesterday. The government has not decided to strip AWB of its single desk status and the West Australian wheat farmers are only notionally closer to breaking the single desk.

Yes, the Liberal Party did manage to wrest the bulk wheat veto power away from AWB, but that’s only a symbolic move to prevent Wilson Tuckey nutting Barnaby Joyce, or vice versa.

It means absolutely nothing if the National Party minister given the power uses it to support the agrarian socialism of the only national pool on offer – the AWB’s.

Questions to Ag Minister McGauran’s office this morning elicited nothing more than the line that the veto power was being transferred to the minister. What was he going to do with that power? “I can’t say anything more than that.”

With the Nats standing firm on the single desk, they have no choice but to support the national pool and give CBH the bum’s rush when it makes its inevitable application to export WA wheat.

Anything less than that means ditching the single desk and hanging out to dry the smaller east coast wheat farmers who remain AWB supporters – and the National Party’s masters.

Yet to come is the fight over what “consulting” the industry means. The agrarian socialists, those concerned with supporting the marginal wheat farmer at the expense of the bigger businesses, would like a poll based on the numbers of farmers who have planted wheat, are thinking of planting wheat or might be related to someone who plants wheat.

The capitalists, those on whose shoulders the prosperity of any industry depends, would like any vote to be based on the number of tonnes of wheat exported.

No prize for guessing the camp membership of the National Party and Minister McGauran.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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