Liberals address rural concerns

28 Jan, 2004 10:00 PM
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THE WA Liberal Party will review the recently introduced environmental legislation if it won government at the next state election.

Shadow agriculture minister Paul Omodei said the controversial Environmental Protection Amendment Bill 2002, which came into effect last year, was draconian in its present form and needed to be changed.

Mr Omodei said the Liberals would attempt to change some of the bill's regulations before the polls were called ‹ but if this couldn't be done, Mr Omodei said the party would try again if and when they won the next election, expected later this year or early next year.

He said the waiting time for farmers in the South West to receive a clearing permit was 20 weeks, while golf clubs did not appear to have the same problem.

"We are not talking about major areas to be cleared, such as shifting a dam or a permit for a vineyard," he said.

The EPA legislation emerged as one of several areas of concern at a Liberal Party rural policy forum held last week, attended by representatives of the Agriculture Department, WAFarmers, PGA and Liberal Party rural policy committee.

The Agriculture Department and APB's reduced funding was another major area of concern as it fought a losing battle against pest and weeds.

"The Department's budget went up $200,000 this year but they needed another $1m just to control wild dogs," he said. "And blackberry is running wild in the South West."

He said the Liberal Party would also make changes to restore road funding for rural areas and finish a link-up program.

Mr Omodei said a Liberal government would also match new federal money to combat salinity on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

He said there needed to be a special focus on salinity to bring the various views and strategies on the issue together.

Key speakers at the forum included Agriculture Department assistant director Ian Longson and Integrated Agricultural Research Facility steering committee chairman Bruce Hobbs, who gave an update about the proposed new unit at Murdoch University.

Mr Omodei said there were many other issues needing to be addressed, including secure water supply for irrigation, reliable and affordable power supply, a common sense approach to farm regulation and flexible approach to heavy haulage road permits.

He said government needed a bold new vision to take agriculture forward into the future.

"It is clear that there are a number of issues where the Gallop Government is out of touch with rural and regional WA," he said.

"Agriculture is one of the most significant contributors to the WA economy and producers need the support of government."

He said a discussion paper stemming from the meeting at Parliament House last week would be issued in about six weeks, with the idea of forming a new policy before the next election.

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