MPs aim to veto GrainCorp

Andrew Probyn Federal Political EditorThe West Australian
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Clive Palmer has formed an unusual rainbow alliance with three other crossbench MPs to demand Parliament strip Treasurer Joe Hockey of his authority over the proposed American takeover of GrainCorp.

Mr Palmer joined fellow maverick Queensland MP Bob Katter, Tasmanian Andrew Wilkie and Green Adam Bandt yesterday to call for GrainCorp to remain in Australian hands.

He plans to bring a private member's Bill, seconded by Mr Katter, which would give Parliament the power to veto Archer Daniels Midland's $3.4 billion bid for the bulk grain handler.

"It's a time for action because we have at jeopardy one of Australia's greatest industries which can be foreign dominated and controlled," Mr Palmer said. "The market can be manipulated internationally if we allow it to happen."

Mr Wilkie went further, saying Australia should return to having a single wheat desk, saying that having a large player on the international market would give the "grunt" missing among the smaller existing players.

New Liberal MP for O'Connor Rick Wilson yesterday condemned the prospect of the single desk being resurrected.

Mr Wilson, a former president of Western Grain Growers, said abolition of the single wheat desk delivered WA growers between $25 and $35 extra a tonne.

"We've had a very robust debate about deregulation of the wheat industry as recently as last year and WA wheatgrowers overwhelmingly indicated their support for continued deregulation of the wheat market," he said.

On ADM's proposed takeover of GrainCorp, Mr Wilson said he was confident the Treasurer would make a decision that was in the national interest. But he said: "We need to develop policy settings that support further investment, not impose restrictive conditions that will act as a disincentive to new entrants in the industry."

Mr Hockey has until December 17 to decide whether to allow ADM's bid for GrainCorp.

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