DAFWA dropped the ball on innovation says MP

27 Jun, 2014 02:00 AM
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In football terms, the agriculture sector is saying that the department has dropped the ball

LIBERAL MP Nigel Hallett has accused the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) of dropping the ball, citing a department survey which found only 30 per cent of industry respondents thought it had fostered innovation in the sector.

In a question to a Budget estimates hearing this month, Mr Hallett said the department's performance against key effectiveness indicators, which sat at about 30pc, was "pretty alarming".

"In football terms, the agriculture sector is saying that the department has dropped the ball," Mr Hallett said.

Speaking at the Standing Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations regarding the post State Budget Agriculture Estimates, Mr Hallett said if he was a department head he would be concerned with the low figures.

DAFWA surveyed 306 WA businesses about the department's performance last year, including producers, processors, marketers, exporters and agricultural consultants.

An analysis of the results was released in the 2014/15 State Budget which showed 30pc of respondents thought the department had fostered innovation and 29pc considered it had improved the profitability of the sector.

"If you look at $300 million for Seizing the Opportunity, I think, from a departmental point of view, you seem to have failed in being able to deliver new initiatives to agriculture, such as risk management and Doppler Radar," he said.

Mr Hallett has been a long-term advocate for Doppler Radar Technology (DRT), which provides high resolution data for advanced weather forecast and warning services, and is considered necessary infrastructure for investment by some prospective crop mitigation insurance providers.

WA is the only State in Australia without the technology.

Mr Hallett also questioned whether the department had considered rebating 10pc stamp duty payable on risk mitigation schemes to encourage people into the schemes.

Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston rejected the assertion that the department had dropped the ball on innovation and improving the sector's profitability, saying he was pushing for the radar technology to be introduced to WA.

As part of this effort, DAFWA engaged AEC group to carry out a cost benefit analysis on DRT earlier this year which is expected to be completed mid-year.

Mr Baston said no business cases had been brought for Cabinet consideration, but he believed DRT was a very important technology for the future.

He said any instrument that aided and allowed for multi peril crop insurance for private enterprise to take part in agriculture was very important.

With regards to a 10pc rebate on stamp duty, Mr Baston said State Treasury had rejected the proposal.

DAFWA director general Rob Delane said the department had been very effective.

Mr Delane said he had sought assistance from the Federal Government for funding for radars and other technology in WA.

He blamed the low performance percentages on the simple, bold set of questions in the department's survey.

"Given we have been under a lot of pressure at getting smaller and needing to shift the functions of the department and not just addressing the rapid change in the operating environment for the sector, but also, for example, responding to the worst season in living memory in 2010... I think an objective assessment of the department is that it has performed extremely well," Mr Delane said.

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READER COMMENTS

boris
27/06/2014 7:43:45 AM, on Farm Weekly

I think Hallett is being a little unfair. Innovation originating from bureacracy is a significant oxymoron. Or is Hallett just completely unaware that bureacrats have never been or can be entrepreneurial, much like politicians. These ruling classes do exactly that, make rules, because they believe society is just not up too managing itself. Bureacracy attracts the non-risk taker and consequentialy they live off the wealth already generated in society.

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