Flockart brushed off

30 Jun, 2004 10:00 PM
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WA forfeits WEA position

By TIM SLATER

WA WHEAT growers will lose their representation on the Wheat Export Authority (WEA) from July 1 after WAFarmers decided not to nominate a candidate, handing the position to a South Australian grower on a plate.

WA representative Jim Flockart, who also represents SA growers under the current WEA board structure, said he had informed WAFarmers that he was prepared to seek another term after his term expired on June 30.

But he received a letter on June 15 from the Grains Council of Australia (GCA) advising him that he had not received the backing of the WAFarmers grains council executive.

The successful candidate, Leith Cooper, a grains and livestock producer from Jamestown, said he did not know what all the fuss was about.

"I don't think there is an issue here at all," Mr Cooper said.

Mr Cooper said he had been nominated for the job by the SA Farmers Federation and recommended by the GCA.

"At some stage the farmer board members are going to have to change and the legislation says one of the two grower representatives must be from WA and SA," Mr Cooper said.

"So I presume on that basis there has to be some sort of rotation between the states at some stage and I imagine that's the basis upon which I was nominated by SAFF."

Mr Flockart, who had served on the WEA in two terms since its inception in 1999, said he had advised GCA and WAFarmers during Grains Week in March that he was prepared to renominate for the position.

"It didn't matter to me whether they supported me or anybody else because I knew when my expiry date came up, and that was the story," Mr Flockart said.

"What I am disappointed in is the fact that the WA grains section of WAFarmers chose not to support a Western Australian and I find that a bit off-putting.

"I think we're talking about the industry and I think in the interests of the grains industry in WA, a Western Australian should have been put up for that position and very strongly canvassed for."

Mr Flockart said 2004 was a crucial year for the WEA because of the Senate review into AWB's management of the single desk.

"I thought I had had a fair bit of experience on it, and with the 2004 review coming up this year, I thought I had a bit to contribute," he said.

Mr Flockart said he would like an explanation why a WA grower wasn't at least nominated for the WEA position because of its massive contribution to the Australian export wheat crop.

"It concerns me that we weren't pushing harder for WA - people say state boundaries don't matter but they do at the end of the day," he said.

"If you go the eastern states and wander around amongst the grain industry people and talk to them they have absolutely no idea what WA is like; the distances involved; the amount of grain that is grown; the size of farms or anything, they've got no idea."

But Mr Cooper said he saw his role on the WEA as looking after the interests of the total Australian wheat industry.

"You are not servicing an individual state at all," he said.

"As with any board it's the overall the picture that really counts and I don't think WA growers need to feel concerned about that issue at all."

Mr Cooper said he planned to visit WA at least once a year to attend WAFarmers annual general meeting which he said was what Mr Flockart did - attended the SAFF annual general meeting when he was the WEA delegate.

WAFarmers grains section president Peter Wahlsten said the decision not to nominate Mr Flockart was made at several meetings with SAFF officials before Grains Week in Perth.

Mr Wahlsten said Mr Flockart's name was originally put forward by WAFarmers but it became clear there was no support for him because of a rotation arrangement with SAFF.

"We have to rotate between SA and WA and the guy will be able to come over to us regularly to all our meetings and speak to us," Mr Wahlsten said.

"I originally nominated Jim and brought the matter back to executive after Grains Week and we looked at the whole situation.

"The decision was we wouldn't oppose the SA nomination because it was impossible.

"We are actively looking at other alternatives"

Mr Flockart said he hoped the issue would become nothing more than a storm in a teacup and Mr Cooper would do a good job representing the interests of WA growers.

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