AWB constitutional reform is looking more likely by the day with John Anderson’s statement in support yesterday a major milestone given he created the farmer gerrymander in the first place.

We’ll know the final votes by September 3 but Anderson’s public position is a slap in the face for the Cold War warriors trying to retain farmers having nine of the 12 board seats. That said, the 74.7% in favour before last week’s controversial vote extension will still be hard to move, given each extra against vote requires three offsetting for votes if the 75% super majority is to be achieved.

It was an awfully long time coming, but AWB chairman Brendan Stewart said this yesterday: “Mr Anderson has indicated that as a NSW wheat grower and AWB A class shareholder he supports reform in light of the new wheat export marketing arrangements.”

The former deputy PM, Nationals leader and Trade Minister was even quoted as follows:

The dual class structure of AWB Limited was appropriate when AWB had a Single Desk. However the new Federal Government has deregulated the industry and removed the old wheat marketing arrangements.”

Without a Single Desk and the introduction of a competitive marketplace, growers now need genuine choice from domestic exporters and I believe that it is in growers’ interests that the AWB can be as competitive as possible.

In these circumstances, I have come to believe that it is in growers’ best interest to vote for reform.

Wow, a Nat admitting that farmer gerrymanders are bad is something else.

After the 110 to 5 Parliamentary vote abolishing the single desk, all we need now is for Barnaby Joyce to back AWB having a normal constitution like most other listed Australian companies.

The farmers were asleep on their tractors when those $300 million in facilitation payments were paid to Saddam’s regime and the company will struggle to raise new debt or equity if the gerrymander remains.

Indeed, the Federal Government seems to be in on the act after AWB wasn’t one of five companies recently awarded wheat export licences. No doubt it will be rewarded once the last vestiges of National Party agrarian socialists are removed from the board.

Peter Fray

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