Labor Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig had little more than a blank look for small to medium exporters going to the wall because of 1400%-plus hikes in export fees.
Senator Ludwig was facing questions in Senate estimates over reports that small exporters in South Australia and Tasmania had been overlooked in consultation about fee increases and were now considering giving it away.
"How does this align with the target in the Government's new food plan to help small to medium-sized food business into the overseas market," Senator Colbeck said. "This Government is cutting them out of the market with the cost of becoming exporters."
Senator Colbeck tabled a media report from Tasmanian daily newspaper, The Advocate, which outlined the case of Spreyton Fresh, which faced an increase in its export fees from $550 last year to $8530 next year.
The company has flagged the increased cost could make its small annual cherry export untenable. Senator Ludwig told estimates he would defer to the department, but exporters quitting in the face on increased cost "isn't the experience to date".
"Time and time again these critical industry issues are sitting in a massive blind spot with this Minister," Senator Colbeck said.
"This is the same Minister who shut down the nation's live export trade overnight based on a media report.
"Senator Ludwig says the fees hikes aren't a big deal as a proportion of business costs, but in the case of Spreyton Fresh, it's 25% of the cherry export portion of the business.
"His feeble explanations just don't stack up with the challenging reality facing businesses in the real world."
YouTube clip: http://youtu.be/DFYjMLC2nXY