THE Federal Government’s Wheat Port Code of Conduct (WPC) is set to extend to cover all bulk grains, and companies not complying with the code will be subject to penalties, according to the latest review of legislation covering Australian grain exports.
Released this week, the review by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Task Force has surprised some in the grains industry by recommending that port terminal service providers (PTSPs) no longer be required to publish stocks information.
The WPC is mandatory. It balances the interests of port terminal owners who own export trading businesses and the interests of other exporters.
Since its introduction in 2014, its aim has been to cut red tape, increase transparency and safeguard the export supply chain.
Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, said the review made only technical recommendations to improve the operation of the WPC.
“The review made 12 recommendations to clarify and strengthen some parts of the code, including extending it to cover other grains,” Mr Littleproud said.
“We listened to farmers, bulk handlers, exporters and experts to make sure the code is giving exporters fair and transparent access to port terminals.”
The taskforce behind the review met with more than 30 stakeholders, including government agencies, grower and industry-representative bodies, exporters and port terminal operators, and received submissions from 15 organisations.
“It makes sense to review codes to make sure they are doing what they’re supposed to do.”
The amendments largely stem from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) practical experience in monitoring the code’s operation over its first three years of operation.
Recommendation 3 of the review gives the WPC some teeth by saying appropriate remedies, including civil pecuniary penalties and infringement notices, be considered for “serious and egregious breaches” to encourage PTSPs to take actions within specific periods as required by the code.
These could relate to:
The review’s other recommendations include:
The review recommends the code next be reviewed in 2022.
“I will consult with stakeholders as I consider the report ahead of releasing a government response to the review in coming months,” Mr Littleproud said.
Under the terms of the Australian Consumer and Competition Act 2010, Australian wheat exporters active as of 2016-17 as listed in the review were:
Asterisk indicates that an exporter operates, has an interest in, or has a relationship with an Australian port-terminal facility as of 2016-17.
The full report is available at the Review of the Code of Conduct tab on the DAWR website