Good Ship WEMA back on course - but rough seas ahead

Well, after listing about becalmed for nearly a month, it appears the Good Ship WEMA is back on course again with a clear sense of direction.

A turgid decision making process hindered the organisation before the appointment of chairman Graham Blight who appears to have acted as a rudder for the group.

But enough of the nautical similes - WEMA have chosen their path, and that is good - but they still face some tough obstacles in terms of the timeframe and raising the cash.

And its not even the money for setting up the new exporter that's going to be the issue - its getting a fund together to put together a business plan that can attract investment.

Mr Blight has said WEMA will go to government first - but it would require a massive backflip to see any joy there - a backflip sure to displease Messrs Tuckey and Schultz enough to force their noisy disapproval.

Minister McGauran has said he sees no reason why the banks would not provide the money - and well they might - but they aren't going to hand it over to an organisation whose business plan is written on the back of a beer coaster - which is about as much detail as the public has now.

Work is underway to get a detailed plan put together as quick as possible - but as Mr Blight acknowledged, it requires the input of professional people focused in that field and that's going to cost dollars.

The state farming organisations are coughing up to keep things motoring along - but they are battling cash crises of their own.

To get things going quickly and efficiently, as is required, money is required and fast.

Things may be looking up for WEMA officials - who now have government sympathy - if not government folding - but the race against the clock continues.

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READER COMMENTS

folfb
23/08/2007 5:47:51 PM

Mr Jones claims that the GCA has improved its efficiency by 75%. I would love to know how he measures the GCA efficiency. It seems to me that the GCA was unable to function with five members because it appears unable to manage the internal politics. Why will the GCA miraculaously improve when it attempts to bring in more members and then has the same problem of trying to manage the politics again? I notice that the GCA policy director has resigned and wonder how bad the ship really is, especially with rumour that the CEO has also resigned and that the company is seriously short of money. Murray Jones has lead the GCA to its lowest ebb in terms of grower representation and advocacy and it is a very poor chairman that blames his board dysfunction on his board. Being a chairman is not unlike being a captain or a coach and when the team does not function as a team it is the captain or the coach that bears the responsibility of that failure. Mr Jones has indicated in his press release that he could not manage the politics and seems to think that the GCA is better without NSW and WA, but this means that he is no longer representing the interests of growers in the two largest grain producing states in Australia. It seems he admits that he cannot work with a full team and yet he seems to think he has a legitimate tenure on the presidency of the GCA. Clearly he has demonstrated his lack of capacity to build a strong grower advocate and equally he fails to articulate any vision for the GCA or the industry. When is Mr Jones going to get out of the way of real progress for the grains industry.
Concerned Qld Grower
23/08/2007 6:26:05 PM

In response to GCA's supposed increased efficiency, what utter codswollop. GCA's credibility and integrity as our grain respresentatives to industry and government isnt worth a pinch of salt, in fact, the politicians wont ever talk to them. Sadly, because of their appalling handling of the Single Desk debate, which was the single most important issue facing the industry in 60 years,the grain industry is now seen to be totally dysfunctional and lacking in any quality leadership. Disgrace on them!!
Grumpy
23/08/2007 6:34:48 PM

It is sad to see the Grains Council flail about in its death throw failing the recognised and acknowledge it own limitations and lack relevance for the industry it proposes to represent. When the grains council was set up it had such a bright future. In recent years we have seen a failure of grains council to provide strong representation for grain growers which has led to a growing level distain amongst the grassroots. Murray Jones has to go.
Single Rip-Off
23/08/2007 8:41:58 PM

What a joke WEMA is. A group of old agri political hacks trying to keep control of the wheat market. Why? Power and control for their own fundamentalist views of export marketing. Wheat growers will all be beter off if they make their own choice of whom they sell their wheat to. The answer is an open and competitive wheat market. I will not be giving any money to provide capital to WEMA. If the Govt. legislates a levy then I will object as I have already paid for a grower controlled company to sell my wheat as a single desk and it was a total failure and I do not want exposure to that risk again. Liberal/National party stop crusifying wheat farmers for electoral possibilities and do the right thing for the wheat industry. Free the market now. Prices will soar even higher.
Single Rip-Off
24/08/2007 8:11:55 PM

Recent publicity surrounding GCA is timely. No longer is there a legislatively mandated requirement to consult with GCA. The GCA was nothing more than the sum of the five state-based farm lobby groups, operating as a closed shop and whose central task was the preservation and maintenance of single desk selling for export wheat. In addition it was the strident defender and advocate for AWB Ltd and its predecessor the Australian Wheat Board. Its constitution and structure disallowed other farm lobby groups to be a full voting member. For example, the PGA of WA was only ever offered a non-voting associate membership and yet its grain producing members produce more grain than grown in Qld. Events of the last number of years has shown up the irrelevance of GCA. Because of recent difference of opinions amongst affiliates on the direction of wheat marketing there has been a fracture. Some affiliates, such as WAFF, have also simply been unable to fund their membership. WEMA, the Wheat Export Marketing Axis as it should be called, in some ways is claiming the ground GCA strode upon. This axis is the last vestige of Aust. grains industry socialism. If they believe, as they claim, that 70-80pc of wheat growers desire a grower owned and controlled entity to export their wheat they should have no trouble in securing firstly the voluntury contribution of capital for funding and secondly voluntury contracting of all wheat produced from this 70-80pc to this entity. This leaves the remaining 20-30pc free to choose a buyer/exporter of their choice. But of course this is not their intention. This axis, its affiliates through direct fee paying membership, is generally understood within the grains industry to represent a fair bit less than 50pc of growers and possibly even less of production. This arrogant minority's intention is to return Australia's wheat industry to the mythology of the 1930s because of their fundamentalist idealogical commitment to a failed system of marketing wheat, a commitment at any cost. Since the finding of the Cole Commission the Federal Government's responses have been wholly inadequate on all fronts, particularly allowing the National Party to dictate the play. Over the last year and potentially this harvest, wheatgrowers, particularly WA & SA, have been condemmed to significantly lower returns. The right solution is for the endeavours of the Wheat Exporting Marketing Axis to be rejected by Government and growers and to allow an enviroment for licences to be granted to industry accredited exporters to export wheat.
white lightning
28/08/2007 3:17:39 PM

It is now time for Mr Jones to step aside from GCA; there needs to be an industry forum to discuss our future that includes all growers not just the tired old group that has run their course.
Andy
4/09/2007 1:34:51 AM

I will not contribute one cent to WEMA or the eventual entity whiuch will be the single desk. Barley/canola production will be the better option.
Andrew Farran
4/09/2007 4:13:29 PM

It will need a bigger capital base than that - beyond the means of wheat farmers generally one would think. The Govt is unlikely to come to the party to that extent (particularly if the body is to have the function of buyer of last resort) given past experience. So it will come down to control (of wheat exporting generally) being in the hands of a few large enterprises. Is that the outcome run of the mill wheat farmers want? Do they have any other options anyway?
NSW farmer
4/09/2007 4:41:19 PM

Mr Blight's description of Austwheat pretty much describes the Austaralian Wheat Board prior to 1990. However, it took the AWB 50 years to get where he needs/wants Austweheat to be in a much shorter time frame. He will need a lot of good will and a similar amount of good luck and some very sincerely dedicated staff with the right skills and very thick hides.
gunforhire
4/09/2007 5:11:47 PM

I have read and heard the latest rhetoric from WEMA and it is clear they have learnt nothing from the mistakes and mismanagement that AWB Ltd, the Grains Council, the National Party and their camp followers have inflicted upon the grains industry over many years. Graham Blight is saying that the WEMA company will control the export of bulk wheat from Australia and veto other exporters. The Wheat Export Authority controls the export of wheat and the government has clearly stated that no commercial entity will ever exercise the veto again. That conflict has been recognised by the Govt as the source of the corruption that took place under the AWB Ltd/International structure. And the state farmer organisations that are members of WEMA keep serving up the same tripe, year after year. No wonder they are irrelevant to many farmers these days. Time to repeal the Wheat Marketing Act. Let's get it over with.
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