WAFF splinters over NFF move

23 Mar, 2001 01:33 PM
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DELEGATES to WAFF's annual conference last week were divided by the decision to suspend membership of the National Farmers Federation.

Federation members from around the state expressed anger and concern over the decision to withdraw from the national body ‹ a decision made as WAFF struggles to provide a balanced budget.

While many speakers were critical of the decision to suspend membership of NFF and peak commondity councils, there were pockets of support for the move.

WAFF will now attempt to remain affiliated with the NFF after a motion was passed at the conference "to explore every avenue to continue its membership to the NFF".

Re-appointed treasurer Des Gooding, however, cast doubt on the ability of the organisation to cope with costs of affiliation, saying the budget was "not capable of providing finance for membership".

"Don't expect me to stick to the budget if that motion is passed," Mr Gooding said.

The possibility of lost membership of the NFF "will only postpone the death throes" of the organisation, according to past president Alex Campbell.

Uncertainty over the NFF membership issue continued with a series of motions opposing membership of the national body ‹ although one was withdrawn and the other was lost.

NFF president Ian Donges last week signalled his intention to "do everything possible" to ensure WAFF remained an NFF member.

Mr Donges said he would do everything he could to assist WAFF rejoin the Federation.

"We're looking at a lot of lateral solutions at the moment to keep WAFF in," he said. "There's a long way to go to resolve this issue but we're exactly in the same position as WAFF in that we will live or die on the strength of our members.

"It is imperative that we must keep all farmer represented bodies in our organisation to ensure we have the political clout in Canberra."

At the conference, a series of decisions were made to suspend membership of nationally affiliated commodity bodies.

At the meat section's annual conference, president Barry Bell announced that membership payments to the Sheepmeat Council of Australia and the Cattle Council of Australia would be suspended from the end of this month "for the foreseeable future".

"We have suspended the membership for as short a period as is possible. But there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes which may enable us to be back as members sooner rather than later," Mr Bell said.

As outlined in WAFF's 2000 annual report, the membership affiliation fees were $16,996 for the CCA and $32,025 for the SCA.

WAFF also has suspended its membership from the Wool Council of Australia, a move that the Federation believes will save up to $100,000 in a 12-month period.

Meanwhile, an attempt to restructure the WA Farmers Federation from WAFF Inc to a company has been left in limbo.

Although there was considerable support for a board-based structure at a special conference called at WAFF's 2001 annual conference, its delegates failed to come to an agreement on how to restructure the organisation.

Following more than two hours of fierce debate, a machinery motion quashed any further discussion of the issue, leaving it unresolved.

The initial motion proposed to delete the general executive and replace it with nine board members ‹ a president, senior vice-president, treasurer, each of the presidents of the dairy, meat, wool and grains councils and one member representing all other commodity groups.

Apparently this structure promoted substantial cost savings and would boost WAFF's efficiency, due to the presence of fewer people on the board.

However, this met opposition from the floor, with concerns of unfair representation for commodities and regions, work overload for the presidents and too much concentration of power to the board, to the point of taking the democracy out of WAFF.

Confusion set in when there were suggestions that the board should include regional representatives (not for commodities) or experts from outside the organisation.

General president Colin Nicholl said it was disappointing that the conference had not been able to conclude the discussion, however it was important that the decision to change the lobby group was the right decision.

"I would rather we took the time to investigate and formulate the best possible structure for the organisation so when the decision is made it is the best possible outcome," Mr Nicholl said.

The proposals will now go back to WAFF's general executive to develop the concepts and seek feedback from the zones before further consideration of a new structure proposal.

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