Nationals leader pushes for next agriculture plan

26 Aug, 2016 02:00 AM
Brendon Grylls
If you are driving an agenda, like we are with agriculture, you don't take your foot off the pedal.
Brendon Grylls

RESTORED The Nationals WA leader and Pilbara MP Brendon Grylls said his mining tax proposal would provide a new revenue source which could keep the party's $350 million Seizing the Opportunity in Agriculture initiative alive after next year's election.

"If you are looking to drive an agenda, like we are with agriculture, you don't take your foot off the pedal - you keep driving it," Mr Grylls told Farm Weekly.

"The State's finances are in a position where everyone's going to have to take their foot off the pedal and we are not prepared to do that.

"That's why we have proposed a new revenue source, it's controversial and not everyone agrees, but it will be a big battle."

Mr Grylls resecured the party's leadership from Terry Redman earlier last month and immediately proposed a $5 a tonne production rent tax on iron ore producers BHP and Rio Tinto.

Mr Grylls believes the tax could raise $7.2 billion over four years, which would return the State budget to surplus, help pay down spiraling government debt and continuing to drive the next phase of of the party's agriculture initiative.

"Part of the reason why we put forward our plan about raising the production rental for BHP and Rio agreements, is that if the State's economy is not strong, if the State can't afford to keep investing and looking to grow and diversify the economy, then things start to go stagnant," Mr Grylls said.

"Stagnant is not good, whether you're a small business in the city or a pastoralist up in the Murchison.

"Part of the reason we are talking about seeking the new revenue source is to have the ability to keep doing Seizing the Opportunity in Agriculture, part two."

The initiative is funded by the Royalties for Regions program and was designed to help the agricultural sector to seize the opportunity of rising global demand while contributing to strengthening regional communities where agriculture is a major economic activity, promote local products, build business skills, research and development and create efficient supply chains.

Mr Grylls and Mr Redman, the then agriculture and food minister, launched the policy in 2013 but it is due to conclude soon and The Nationals MPs hope to push for a second phase, with new agricultural initiatives, to continue into the next parliament.

"How do you do part two if you have a $3.9m deficit and a debt challenge, putting capital works under pressure?" Mr Grylls asked.

"We would like the opportunity to do part two."

The party is developing the proposed part two policies, which are due to be announced closer to the 2017 election.

"The Nationals have shown we don't take our foot off the pedal," Mr Grylls said.

"We are prepared to get a blood nose fighting for it.

"My return to the leadership is about that and we are determined to drive that agenda, to diversify the economy, create jobs and take advantage of the international interest in agriculture."

Mr Grylls has had further talks with Premier Colin Barnett since first outlining the iron ore tax proposal, but had won no agreements.

"Premier Barnett said he doesn't support our proposal, but it's my job to put forward our plans and prosecute them," Mr Grylls said.

"We have done it before with Royalties for Regions.

"Everyone said RfR couldn't happen in 2008 and here we are today.

"We don't shy away, we will put the issues on the table and debate them publicly."

Mr Grylls believes WA can't afford a post-mining boom downturn.

"We are elected as politicians to help shape the State for the future and there are 12 of us in parliament (The Nationals members) and we have put forward our plans and they can be judged," he said.

Mr Grylls said regional areas would benefit from an improved State budget as a result.

"My role as leader of the Nationals and my colleagues is to create the opportunities for people to come to the regions," he said.

"The Nationals are proud of the role we have played in this.

"In 2012 we launched the Seizing the Opportunity in Agriculture plan to take to the last State election, as a party we stepped out of the norm and we saw a great opportunity for agriculture.

"We believe we have created an environment where international investment into agriculture has been accepted and I am proud of that."



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