GRAIN Producers Australia (GPA) has rejected claims it acted without a mandate before lobbying to retain and expand Wheat Exports Australia’s (WEA’s) legislated market oversight powers.
WA-based Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) chairman John Snooke wrote to Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig last month saying GPA should be stripped of its representative status.
The association withdrew its support for GPA as the industry’s national peak body in April, saying GPA had “turned away from its original charter as a self-reliant independent organisation based on direct representation from grain growers and evolved into a replica of the failed Grains Council of Australia”.
Mr Snooke said GPA was dominated by the “vested interests of State farming organisations (SFOs), including those who support the return of the single desk”.
He said this was most apparent in GPA’s plan to retain WEA and broaden its role.
“This attempt by GPA to centralise the power of WEA removes many existing industry funded specialist organisations including Grain Trade Australia (GTA), Wheat Quality Australia (WQA), and Australian Export Grain Innovation Centre and forces a new financial burden on WA wheat growers who already disproportionately fund the operations of the WEA through the Wheat Export Charge (WEC),” Mr Snooke said in the letter.
“GPA is also attempting to increase its own role and funding stream by establishing itself as a representative organisation under a revamped WEA, charged with providing domestic and international advocacy for the Australian wheat industry.”
Mr Snooke claimed three months before consulting with stakeholders, GPA wrote to all Federal MPs and senators calling for the WEA’s retention under a new charter.
“According to GPA’s financial statements, as of March 31, 2012, GPA had 132 members, which is hardly representative of the 27,000 graingrowers GPA claims to represent in their letter,” Mr Snooke said.
“Despite GPA’s claims they consulted extensively with graingrowers and industry on this important policy position, it would appear the chairman and board members of GPA had already formulated their policy position prior to consulting its members, including having little, if any, consultation with the WA grains industry and in particular WA wheat growers.”
He questioned whether GPA could act fairly and impartially.
But GPA chairman Peter Mailler strongly refuted the PGA’s claims, in particular around consultation timelines.
Mr Mailler said GPA created a discussion paper on the WEA issue that was released in June 2011 and not July 2012, as claimed by the PGA.
He said the discussion paper was developed by reviewing submissions to the Productivity Commission’s 2010 report on the deregulated market’s progress.
Mr Mailler said the paper listed issues around port access, cargo integrity of wheat exports and stocks information, which PGA also listed in its original submission to the Commission’s inquiry.
“We have common ground, which was the foundation of the discussion paper we wrote and released in June 2011,” he said.
“But saying we didn’t consult with anyone until July 2012 is just garbage; we started our work a year before that.
“What John Snooke is saying in the letter to the Minister is grossly untrue; we’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time consulting farm groups.
“The timelines and assertions around our consultation process are completely wrong.
“I’m frustrated at what’s been said because it’s just a cheap-shot way of having a go at the GPA in regards to our role as the representative organisation.”