WEST Australian Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray has rejected calls to be sacked following controversial comments about WA’s two farm lobby groups needing to sort-out their differences, using a shotgun.
Mr Murray was speaking on the ABC’s Country Hour program today on the GM Crops Free Areas Repeal Bill passing the WA Parliament’s upper house last night and potential changes to his party’s policy opposing Genetically Modified crops, like canola.
Mr Murray said the WA Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association’s (PGA) attitude on GM was “absurd” and “head in the sand” but it was pointed out they had the same policy stance supporting GM and the repeal bill, as WAFarmers.
“I’d think about handing them a shot gun each and see if they can sort it out,” the Collie-Preston MP said.
PGA member and long-term pro-GM supporter Bill Crabtree said on Twitter that WA Labor leader Mark McGowan should sack Mr Murray for suggesting shotguns should be used by the two lobby groups.
Mr Murray told Fairfax Agricultural Media he was “copping a bit of heat” for his comments in the radio interview suggesting the Labor party’s position on GM crops would now change to become more pragmatic.
He said he also expected backlash over his comments about the two farm lobby groups and the use of shotguns to resolve their ongoing differences; a topic he’s raised previously.
“I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be lined up with some shooting in America but what I’m really saying is these two groups are shooting themselves in the foot and killing themselves in a different sense and that’s not good for the whole industry,” he said.
Mr Murray said it was “ridiculous” for the farm industry to have one group saying to politicians or others that an issue was “black” and another group saying it was “white”.
“It’s about time they stopped this open warfare; it’s just stupid,” he said.
“But I haven’t had anyone in my party saying I should be sacked.
“I’ll line them all up and say, ‘who wants me sacked because I’ll pass the hat around and go now’.”
WAFarmers President Tony York said he heard the interview and was disappointed to hear Mr Murray say he thinks the two farm lobby groups should shoot each other in order to overcome their differences.
“I would hope he doesn’t think we’re not trying to represent our industry to the best of our members,” he said.
“Does he think we’ve got it wrong on the GM Crops repeal bill?
“In fact we agree with the PGA on that issue and the two groups do say things in common, more than once.”
But Mr York stopped short of saying Mr Murray should resign over his shotgun comments.
“I’m not going to put him on the line based on that remark and am assuming he was being disparaging about our willingness to support the repeal bill but we’re just doing what our members want, which is to repeal the Act,” he said.
“A few years ago we may have been perceived as being weak on the GM issue but we’re much stronger on the Act being repealed now and we believe grower choice is still paramount.
“As for our State Labor shadow ministry, as an organisation we’ve been focussing on the federal election campaign but once that’s over, and we’ve already met with Mick Murray, but we’ll re-engage with him after the federal election.
“The repeal does not mean in any way that we’re not interested in supporting non-GM growers as well and we’ll make that point to him.”
Mr Murray said his party’s policy position remained “no-GM” but he said given that GM canola was already being produced in WA it would be very difficult to remove.
He said – with the repeal bill now virtually guaranteed of passing – the focus should turn towards policies that allowed GM crops to be grown side by side with non-GM varieties.
Mr Murray said fines or other penalties needed to be considered to protect growers who wanted to remain GM-free and to give them more confidence.
PGA President Tony Seabrook has been contacted for comment.