STAKEHOLDERS are invited to make submissions by January 31, 2024 to the Federal Government’s second review of the Port Terminal Access (Bulk Wheat) Code of Conduct.
Known as the Wheat Port Code, it regulates bulk terminal service providers to ensure exporters have fair and transparent access to Australia’s 31 port terminal services.
The regulation is scheduled to be repealed on 1 October 2024, unless a decision is made by government to re-make it.
The review will inform the government’s sunsetting decision, and will also meet the review requirements of Section 5 of the regulations that create the code.
Section 5 of the regulations specifies the matters the review must consider, and can be broadly grouped into three key questions:
- What effect has the Wheat Port Code had?
- Is the Wheat Port Code still necessary?
- If it is still necessary, could the Wheat Port Code be improved?
GPA calls for action
Grain Producers Australia chair and Western Australian grower Barry Large said growers had been let down by the Federal Government’s failure to implement common-sense and pragmatic reforms delivered in the code’s previous review process, which started six years ago.
“A report on the first review was released in 2018 which made 12 recommendations for government to consider on how the Wheat Port Code could be improved with some technical amendments, including extending it to cover all grains,” Mr Large said.
“Two years later in October 2020, the Australian Government finally responded, supporting 11 of the review’s 12 recommendations.
“The discussion paper released today says that implementation of these improvements was further delayed by the 2022 federal election and change of government.
“Now, the current Agriculture Minister, Murray Watt has determined that – given significant time has passed since the first review was undertaken – these recommendations may be out of date, and it’s better to commence a second review of the code rather than amend it, to implement potentially outdated recommendations.
“These delays are simply not good enough.”
Mr Large said GPA and other stakeholders including growers, that submissions to the previous review on serious matters such as market transparency, should translate to a government response to “finish the job”.
GPA southern director Andrew Weidemann said the extended feedback process and timing for the current review was welcome, with the submission deadline moved beyond harvest, out to 31 January 2024.
Mr Weidemann said the government needed to keep its promises this time, and follow through on its statement that stakeholder feedback will help determine the code’s future role and operation.
“Growers and industry can be justifiably cynical that the time and energy we contribute again to this review process that’s designed to make business improvements which increase productivity and sustainability, will be a total waste of time – but we’re happy to be proven wrong,” he said.
GPA’s submission to the first review supported the code’s continuation, with improvements to help protect growers and market operations, with improved transparency and accountability measures.
As outlined in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Bulk grain ports monitoring report – industry update report released last year, concerns exist about the code’s ability to keep up with greater volume of commodities not confined to wheat now being shipped.
On release of the report, the ACCC said industry would benefit from a detailed review that considered whether the current regulatory approach contained in the code was fit for purpose, and what changes were needed.
Source: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Grain Producers Australia