“We have made a judgment call and, as Julie Bishop has said publicly on a number of occasions lately, we want a managed transition for this important industry and we don’t think that a managed transition is what they are going to get from a government with a track record that is incompetent and untrustworthy.”

That was Tony Abbott yesterday on Labor’s proposed bill to deregulate wheat marketing. That is to say, both parties want the same outcome. Abbott just wants to play politics in the meantime.

The Opposition Leader wants to wait two years to abolish Wheat Exports Australia, half-a-dozen years after the AWB kickbacks scandal came to light, because it says growers and others in the chain need more time to adapt. Farmers (or at least their lobby) disagree. As do many Nationals and a handful of WA Liberals in Abbott’s party room.

Maybe the Opposition Leader knows more than the industry and local members of his own caucus. In which case he should negotiate in good faith with the government to amend the legislation and ensure the best outcome.

But to block the move based on nothing more than his soundbite-ready belief the government isn’t capable of delivering an outcome he actually agrees with is the worst kind of politics. Abbott has form here. He voted against Labor’s plan to allow farmers to earn credits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions — even though that’s the core of the Coalition’s alternative policy on climate change.

He needs to do better than that.

Peter Fray

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