Not happy Barnaby: PGA hits back

20 Sep, 2014 02:00 AM
PGA president Tony Seabrook.
Such comments are derogatory not only to the members of the PGA but to all grain growers in WA
PGA president Tony Seabrook.

THE Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) of Western Australia has hit back at “derogatory” comments from federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce suggesting the free market-driven farm lobby group is obsessed with corporatising grower-owned CBH.

PGA president Tony Seabrook wrote to Mr Joyce this week objecting to comments he made in an article by Fairfax Agricultural Media on finalisation of the controversial mandatory code of conduct overseeing port access for bulk wheat exports.

Asked whether PGA would be happy with the final code, which contains an exemption for WA co-operative CBH and no sunset clause as demanded by WA Liberals, Mr Joyce said: “PGA was never going to be happy”.

“PGA will be happy when you corporatise CBH and a big fat cheque turns up in a few of their wallets,” he said.

However, in a copy of the letter seen by Fairfax Agricultural Media, Mr Seabrook said the push for equity in CBH was a commercial matter between the co-op's members “and should not be used as political fodder in an attempt to justify what many in the grains industry consider to be a poor policy decision”.

“Such comments are derogatory not only to the members of the PGA but to all grain growers in Western Australia whose interests, despite growing the largest amount of export wheat in the country, are still considered by many in Canberra to be of less importance than their eastern states counterparts,” he said.

Mr Joyce invited to visit PGA

To remedy the situation, Mr Seabrook extended an invitation for Mr Joyce to visit the PGA and meet the group’s grain growing members “who remain supportive of a deregulated wheat export industry”.

Mr Seabrook said PGA members had also been instrumental in passing legislation to amend the Wheat Export Marketing Act which instigated the code’s development and were involved on the committee overseeing its development.

He said at no time had PGA placed a submission or made any statement regarding wheat export deregulation where the issue of corporatising CBH was raised or inferred.

“Whilst the PGA remains critical of your proposal to grant an exemption to the code to co-operatives, as we consider this to raise unnecessary barrier to new industry participants, this has nothing to do with the push from many growers in Western Australia for the corporatisation of CBH,” he wrote.

“All grain growing members of the PGA are members of CBH, and as such are entitled to challenge the conduct of their co-operative, especially over the issue that CBH remains a non-distributing co-operative where the only financial return a grower receives for decades of loyalty is a share worth $2.”

PGA has expressed strong dissatisfaction with Mr Joyce giving co-operatives an exemption from the code which he has justified by saying the co-op is able to return profits to growers, unlike a publicly listed entity.

“But all this is driven with the farmers’ views at the forefront because we need to work on the key principle of fair return to the farmgate and you can’t have a fair return without transparency,” he said in discussing the final code.

“Any monopoly position, whether it’s a monopoly in telecommunications or in poles and wires or at the ports, inherently needs regulations, otherwise you’ll get exploitation in that market segment.

“We’re not going to work for a better return for the farmer to see it legally and appropriately consumed by a monopoly operator, because that’s just inherently counterproductive.”

Mr Joyce was contacted for comment by Fairfax Agricultural Media regarding the PGA’s letter.

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Jock Munro
20/09/2014 4:56:33 AM

Well done Minister Barnaby Joyce for stating the obvious on the intentions of PGA which has been doing the bidding of the large and the powerful for years.
drowning in debt
20/09/2014 6:31:17 AM

better a big fat cheque which is your own hard earned blood sweat and tears than a statewide bailout of insolvent grain farmers with taxpayer money.. just wait, this time wheat at 200 bucks is going to predeictably obliterate the eastern wheatbelt. youll have a healthy co-op but no members left out east. disgraceful.!!!barnaby is a sociliast to his core
20/09/2014 6:50:19 AM

Mr Seabrook, it is your kind of paranoia and WA centric parochialism which makes WA the laughing stock of a nation. I for one agree wholeheartedly with Mr Joyce's comments about PGA and support the retention of CBH as a farmer owned co-operative. It is the lowest cost and most efficient grain handler in Australia, and all built under the Co-Op structure. You and the PGA have done nothing but try and destroy the fabric that made the WA wheat industry great. Your deregulation has brought nothing but chaos so far and we are now getting ripped off with prices below US prices.
20/09/2014 6:57:21 AM

The majority of WA's wheat growers support CBH remaining as a Co-op. Tony Seabrook and PGA's handful of wheat grower members do not speak for all WA's wheat growers. PGA is a far right wing extremist organization which I could never belong to. They are too ideologically bogged down and incapable of just fighting for the best deal for farmers and farming in WA or Australia. What we need is a lobby organization which puts farm gate returns above selfish ideology and party political hacks like Dean Smith and Wilson Tuckey.
20/09/2014 7:10:40 AM

If we had actually followed the ideologies of Seabrook, PGA & D8, et al, in WA or Australia, from the early 1900s, our grain industry would never have got off the ground. It was only under CBH, plus orderly marketing, storage and handling, that we built all of todays infrastructure and grew our farmer numbers and area under cultivation. Now PGA wants all that to be handed over to foreign multi nationals who have a history of taking over control of local industry, milking it dry, & destroying our Aussie brand and high quality reputation. Give me the Barnaby Joyce approach over PGA any day.
21/09/2014 8:32:50 AM

I wonder if u guys are really the Pastoralists and Graziers association of America? It seems to me u are in cohoots with David to pick at the last bits of meat on the carcass that is Austn Agriculture, whilst the rest of society is a regulation and socialist dream. To list CBH will mean it is taken over by the US Fed Reserve. All the while u push for GM, with little understanding of max residue limits and their correlation to increased cancer rates, u only look at the pluses and insist we need to educate the consumer. How about u adhere to an old marketing principle, let them decide?
Bushie Bill
21/09/2014 10:59:40 AM

Boofs rush in where wise men fear to go or at least think twice about it.
tim from oakey
22/09/2014 5:12:31 PM

WTF, how profound your rhetorical question is about the A in PGA, standing for America. It seems, PGA wants all of our farming and associated industries to fall into the hands of the faceless giants of the heavily subsidized US grain industry. What shallow fools.
23/09/2014 10:55:34 AM

yes Tim I cant work it out. They have the last bit of Australia left in the international grain market and they want to give it away, its nuts.


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