WHILE visiting Perth last week for a shadow cabinet meeting, the new Federal National Party leader David Littleproud met with Farm Weekly to discuss issues affecting the agricultural industry and how he planned to tackle those alongside The Nationals WA counterparts.
While the live export issue dominated much of Mr Littleproud's time in WA, meeting with livestock producers and WAFarmers, the former Federal agriculture minister also discussed the issues of national biosecurity, Australia's relationship with China and sung his praises for the The Nationals six WA MPs, saying they had done "an incredible job" in holding a Labor majority government to account with limited resources.
While the Federal government has increased its investment in its national biosecurity strategy to prevent diseases and pests such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) and lumpy skin disease (LSD) from entering into Australia, Mr Littleproud said he was concerned the WA government had not followed suit.
"We've tried to have a national biosecurity strategy, but there hasn't been co-operation from the WA government - and that's about opening up your books and being transparent, line by line about what you're spending on biosecurity," Mr Littleproud said.
Highlighting the Federal government only looked after the borders of the country, he said what happened inside Australia's borders was just as important and that was each State's responsibility to undertake.
"WA will be on the front line, especially the State's Kimberley region," Mr Littleproud said.
"Some of these incursions will simply blow in, so we need to know that it's not just the Federal government that is there, we need to know that the State government is there to co-ordinate on the ground.
"They're given this thing called GST, they have to prioritise that otherwise WA agriculture and the environment is going to get hurt."
Considering Australia's relationship with China and the trading bans put in place on some of the nation's agricultural commodities since the Federal government supported an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, Mr Littleproud said there was a baseline in which that relationship could be reset.
"That is based around the values, principles and sovereignty of each country and respecting those," he said.
"We won't be trading away those values and principles or our democracy for the 14 demands they have put in place or until they get rid of those coercive actions that they took in terms of our commodities."
While welcoming the fact there had been initial dialogue from China to the new Labor government, Mr Littleproud said it was a small step in a very long journey.
"Previously, as agricultural minister, I was very clear my phone was always on and my door was always open and I reached out to my (Chinese) counterpart a number of times," Mr Littleproud said.
"It is a good step to have dialogue and we have always said that the best way to resolve any misunderstanding is through dialogue.
"I believe we took the right steps in standing up to them, but what needs to happen in the future - I think we have to be careful and understand that it will be a long journey."
Without a Western Australian representative since Tony Crook last held the Federal seat of O'Connor in August 2013, Mr Littleproud said it was important a WA member be added to the party at a Federal level.
"We would like to play a bigger role in WA and build a bigger brand here, not just for the State guys but also in Canberra, as that's where you can change things and make sure your voice is really heard," he said.
With the WA Labor government having a whopping majority since the State election, Mr Littleproud said The Nationals WA remaining six MPs had punched well above their weight and sang the praises of the party's WA leader Mia Davies.
"Mia and I have had some really good conversations and any support she is looking for, she will get from the Federal Nats," he said.
Following the shock resignation of The Nationals WA MP for North West Central Vince Catania, the party opened up nominations last Thursday for the upcoming by-election for his seat.
Mr Littleproud said the fact WA had a different climate, production systems and way of doing things was not lost on him and those differences needed to be brought into the agricultural industry's Federal policy settings.
"Drought, particularly in the eastern part of our country, over the past three or four years, decimated Australian agriculture and if it wasn't for Western Australian agriculture, our whole agricultural economy would be buggered," he said.
"We had processors about to go under because they couldn't source wheat, and WA got us through those times.
"Fortunately this year we have good sub-soil moisture on both sides of the country, so I think we are going to have a good season."
The new party leader said his decision to nominate for the leadership role was not a reflection on the previous Federal National Party leader Barnaby Joyce's performance, but rather due to Mr Joyce only being able to commit to 12-18 months in the role.
"Our journey towards 2025 had to start the day after the election, so we had to re-engage with the electorate and I'm proud of the fact that my front bench still has former leaders, but is also looking at a generational change and renewal," Mr Littleproud said.
"I'm proud to say that half of my shadow cabinet are strong, capable women that have got there because of the capacity of what they have been able to prove, particularly over the past three years.
"Two of them are only in their second term which is fantastic and I think speaks volumes about the depth of the National Party."
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