Seizing the opportunity

31 Dec, 2013 01:00 AM
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Nationals deputy leader Mia Davies (left), new Nationals leader Terry Redman and outgoing Nationals leader Brendon Grylls.
Ironically, the pair now hold the leadership and deputy leadership of the party.
Nationals deputy leader Mia Davies (left), new Nationals leader Terry Redman and outgoing Nationals leader Brendon Grylls.

IT has been a massive year in State politics, and a massive year for agriculture on a State political level.

The year kicked off with a State election in March, which brought to a head a number of key issues in agriculture, all of which are still relevant as we head into 2014.

Issues such as the closure of Tier 3 rail lines, government assistance, Royalties for Regions and the money spent on agriculture, were all significant issues high on the radar for WA farmers.

Arguably the biggest talking points of the year involved the WA Nationals.

Leading into the election there was a large section of regional WA saying there was a disconnect between the so-called regional party.

Even former leader Hendy Cowan said the party had abandoned the regions.

It even caused former leader Max Trenorden and Philip Gardiner to run against their beloved Nationals as the Rural Independents.

But against the calls the Nationals stood triumphant on the evening of March 9, claiming its largest ever election victory.

The party won nine seats in the face of adversity, with leader at the time Brendon Grylls leading the way in the north.

But in the south it was a different story.

New leader Terry Redman just scraped through in his seat of Warren-Blackwood and Mia Davies, having the safe seat of Central Wheatbelt, had her margin cut by almost 10 per cent.

Ironically, the pair now hold the leadership and deputy leadership of the party.

This change in leadership came after former kingmaker and Nationals WA leader Brendon Grylls announed that he would be resigning as chief of the party and from his ministerial duties.

It was a surprise announcement, particularly given his success in the March State election where he relinquished the safe Central Wheatbelt seat to contest and win the seat of Pilbara.

At the time it was a move considered risky to say the least.

For the first time in 30 years the Nationals also lost the Agriculture and Food portfolio with Liberal Ken Baston taking on the role.

That was on the back of the Premier outlining his plan to take a more direct and personal interest in agriculture.

That comment also led to a series of regional trips by the Premier and Mr Baston throughout the Wheatbelt to discuss issues with farmers face-to-face.

The trip resulted in mainstream media exposure, highlighting the issues in regional WA, and a State Farm Assistance Package for more than 300 farmers.

The Federal Government in April also announced its own Federal Farm Finance Package.

Eight months later that loan package is still yet to reach WA farmers.

Then in August came the State Budget.

All agricultural eyes were on what the commitment to agriculture would be, particularly following Mr Grylls announcing a week earlier at the Nationals WA conference in York, that agriculture would feature heavily in the State Budget.

It did.

The State Government embraced a $300 million agricultural policy – Seizing the Opportunity – which would be spread over the next five years.

The plan now allows for an influx of finance into agriculture, something it hasn't had for a long time.

The official roll-out of some of the money will begin in 2014 and that should excite many farmers and people in the agricultural industry.

It remains to be seen whether any of that money will include Tier 3 rail lines, which is still a major political hot potato.

Two of the six Tier 3 rail lines have already been closed, while the other four look increasingly likely to close in June unless an agreement between Brookfield Rail, the State Government and CBH can be met.

A key sticking point in that has been the lease agreement, the focus of a call by Labor and the Nationals that it should be open and transparent.

Labor Member for Agricultural Region Darren West started the ball rolling in asking for the lease agreement to be tabled in parliament before Christmas.

That didn't happen and the hope is it will be high on the agenda for early next year.

In a recent interview with Farm Weekly, Terry Redman declared his interest in having the lease tabled.

That indicates if it does come to a vote in parliament, it should be tabled.

But Mr Redman will also have his hands full early in the next year as he looks to find a solution to pastoral lease agreement.

Former Lands Minister Mr Grylls said the lease had just included more detail and had been modernised.

But pressure from pastoralists and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) about taking the issue to court has seen a clear back down from State Government over the 'draft' lease with a result needed early next year.

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FarmWeekly
Tyson Cattle

Tyson Cattle

is the editor of Stock and Land.
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READER COMMENTS

Waiting
31/12/2013 7:34:55 AM, on Farm Weekly

Still waiting after 8 months for details of state package - now told it will be mid Jan by DAFWA because State Minister is yet to sign off. Other states are already rolling - why is this state so slow?
Pete
31/12/2013 10:51:14 AM, on Farm Weekly

To right these guys are going to put more money in producers pockets.Do they practice the concerned look in front of the mirror

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