Cartoon: By R May
It looks like Western Australia is sliding off into anarchy with the removal of another regulator. The Potato Marketing Corporation appears to be heading towards the chopping block on the recommendation of the Economic Regulation Authority (ERA) apparently at the behest of the Labor opposition.
Fears of rogue potato growers doing whatever they want and street vendors selling illicit potato products to unwary addicts in dark alleys have been dismissed:
Arguably an anachronism in today's capitalist world, WA's Potato Marketing Act of 1946 - and its subsequent regulator, the Potato Marketing Corporation of WA - trace their history back to the shortages of the Great Depression and post-war food security.
The corporation not only controls what potato varieties can be grown and sold, but who grows them and how much they are paid.
It has the power to search premises, confiscate equipment and crops, and prosecute farmers - as rebel southwest potato grower Tony Galati has found over the years after being threatened with legal action for overplanting and trying to sell excess spuds cheaply. …
… ''The Potato Marketing Corporation and Western Australia's absurd laws have stifled competition and denied choice to growers and consumers,'' Mr McGowan said. ''No other Australian state has a body that decides what varieties of potatoes can be grown, who can grow them and at what price they can be sold.
''It should be left to the growers to decide if they will grow a particular variety of potato.''Mr McGowan said the restrictive laws were responsible for some of Australia's highest potato prices and, of the 66 commercial varieties grown around the nation; only 13 were permitted in WA.
''It would be comical if it wasn't so damaging to WA's economy and consumer and grower choice,'' he said. ...
Marketing authorities and regulations became popular after World War 2, possibly as a reaction to the demise of wartime rationing, fears of a free market renaissance, and a need to find spots for all of those bureaucrats likely to be left with nothing to interfere with.
Both Labor and the Liberal and Country Party, (now National Party or LNP) were very keen on the idea; the difference being that while Labor aimed to control production, distribution, and marketing of products, the conservatives chose to regulate it. There was little difference in the result.
During the 60s, and 70s, the most heinous crimes you could commit in Queensland on the basis of penalties, were breaches of national Party orderly marketing regulations.