I READ with interest the letter from Trevor Whittington, WAFarmers chief executive officer, on the suggestion that WAFarmers and the PGA consider amalgamating.
History tells us that if governments, of any persuasion, can divide an entity or entities then that is a good excuse for not doing anything.
With history on our side, I would like to illustrate what happened in the farm machinery industry and which has had positive results.
Back in the 1990s the Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia (TMA), represented the importers of agricultural equipment.
On the other side we had the Australian Machinery Manufacturers Association (AMMA) who represented the local manufacturers.
After a few years of negotiation, the TMA persuaded AMMA to come onboard and have one organisation to represent the whole industry and speak with one voice.
It worked well from day one and the thing which probably helped most was to alternate the chairmen – one would represent the TMA for one term and his deputy, who came from AMMA, would represent the locals and then vice-versa at subsequent elections.
Did we always agree on everything?
No, but we did for the majority of issues.
If there was a differing view we would thrash it out – sometimes using a specially-elected committee and decide on a solution.
Sometimes we agreed to disagree but in vast majority of cases we were all of one voice.
We had a similar situation in WA where we had the Farm Machinery Dealers Association (FMDA) and the WA Regional Manufacturers (WARM) which had their separate organisations.
About six years ago we combined the two into the Farm Machinery and Industry Association of WA (Inc) (FMIA) and we haven’t looked back.
We are the ‘go to’ association for those, predominantly government, who wish to know and learn more about our industry.
Additionally we have a seat on the TMA board which adds the FMIA network to their structure and in essence we have a national perspective, a bit like WAFarmers and the National Farmers’ Federation.
It makes so much sense to speak with one voice when the rest of the country and the world, is being driven by minority groups these days, with disastrous consequences.
From my experience the biggest challenge with any amalgation does not come from the respective members, but the paid personnel who try to maintain and protect their positions by building road blocks which makes the process slow and frustrating.
At the end of the day however it is the elected president/chairperson and committee members who will determine the outcome, one way or another.
If agriculture continues to be divided, government will not listen, but worse the agricultural split voice is in danger of being drowned out by minority social media numbers.
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