By JACINTA BOLSENBROEK
FEDERAL Member for O'Connor Rick Wilson is pushing a focus on WA agriculture, after being appointed as chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water.
The Katanning farmer will chair the committee after overseeing the Lower House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry as a committee member last year.
The committee pushed for a better food labelling regime to help identify and separate the origin of different food production and manufacturing processes, and came up with recommendations for country of origin labelling and agricultural innovation.
In the next four parliamentary sitting weeks, Mr Wilson said the standing committee will focus on biosecurity issues and the Australian bee industry.
"I was a committee member last Parliament, when the committee was chaired by South Australian Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey," he said.
"The position has come up and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has asked me to chair this committee."
The committee includes Labor MP Meryl Swanson, National Andrew Broad, Liberal John McVeigh, Mr Ramsey, Liberal Tony Pasin and Labor MPs Matt Keogh and Justine Keay.
The committee will commence the biosecurity hearings in the next sitting week.
They will hear briefings from the Department for Agriculture and Food and taking evidence for the remainder of the parliamentary year.
"My focus as the chair will be to look at areas where there is federal government jurisdiction, so we can make changes, and at topics that are important to agriculture and implement changes to make a difference," Mr Wilson said.
"Biosecurity is a very broad topic, for WA there are two areas of importance - wild dogs and varroa mite and the threat to bees and honey."
Next month the committee will lead a round table discussion with a particular focus on bee biosecurity.
Next year it will then look at other agricultural issues and possibly look at a broader biosecurity inquiry.
"We want to make a difference to the agricultural industry," Mr Wilson said.
"The varroa mite and bee issue seems to be quite urgent, so the committee will look at that and have a round table with industry bodies in Canberra, and has opened an invitation with the beekeeping section of WAFarmers."
The committee will travel nationally to hear evidence, including in WA.
"Now I am the chair, I think it's a fair bet we will come to WA, as we didn't get there in the last parliament," he said.
"Having the chair from WA will put a stronger focus on WA's agricultural issues, and I will try where possible to do so.
"I am looking forward to having some interesting inquiries and advising the minister on recommendations, as we operate under federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
"Hopefully he will be able to adopt them and put them into play."
Mr Wilson said it will be up to the committee to decide which aspects of biosecurity it will look into.
"Wild dogs have a huge impact in my electorate, so I will be pushing hard for that focus - but it is a committee so we all need an interest," Mr Wilson said.
"We will hold this inquiry until the end of the year, and we hope to have completed that by the end of the year and hold a full-scale inquiry next year, where we would advertise for written submissions and invite people to give evidence."