Election 2013 Western Australia March 9

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Commerce Matters

Liberals put agriculture in the field

Liberal Statement

Premier Colin Barnett has today guaranteed Western Australian farmers that if a Liberal Government is re-elected, he will personally oversee the reduction of red tape and unnecessary regulations affecting agriculture.

Mr Barnett said the Liberals’ agricultural policy was a commitment to a broad suite of measures, designed to support and promote agriculture, promote efficiencies through technological advances and enhance the development of new markets.

Releasing the Liberals’ policy in Calingiri today with local Agricultural Region members, Jim Chown and Brian Ellis, Mr Barnett said agriculture had long underpinned Western Australia’s economic performance and was still the State’s second-biggest export industry.

“Western Australia’s agricultural and food sectors are vital to securing our strong economy. Our agricultural sector needs to be given opportunity to expand and innovate; to increase productivity and market share in the Asian and Middle East regions,” he said.

The Premier said there were many struggling farmers and farming communities in WA.

“Many farmers have urged me to have a look at red tape and I will immediately instruct the Department of the Premier and Cabinet to assess the level of cross-government regulation which has an impact on farmers, and work to reduce unnecessary burdens prohibiting their future growth and success,” he said.

The report would look at issues such as land clearing, elements of the Environmental Protection Act, transport permits, water regulations, general land management and soil regulations.

“Times are tough for our farmers, many of whom are relying on season-to-season finance to stay viable. The Liberals believe that farmers need to be supported, not through a hand out, but a hand up, when responding to the difficult circumstances they face,” Mr Barnett said.

Mr Barnett said the Liberals had a multi-pronged strategy to create better opportunities for farmers, graziers and horticulturalists. A re-elected Liberal Government will invest $20million into agricultural research and development and also establish a $20million State Biosecurity Fund.

The biosecurity fund will ensure Western Australia’s food producers maintain their prized clean food status to best capitalise on export markets.

“With food security the major issue facing our trading partners, Western Australia has a unique opportunity to expand on one of our oldest industries both in the short and long term,” Mr Barnett said.

“There is a clear need to safeguard WA from the risks of imported pests and disease.

“The $20million fund will support grants to universities, the Department of Agriculture and biosecurity groups in WA working to keep our State free of pests and diseases.”

The Premier said this fund would also help fund projects such as the proposed Kalgoorlie biosecurity fence which a re-elected Liberal Government would support to try to mitigate the wild dog problem plaguing many WA stations. The Government could also consider proposals to support the Kimberley Toad Busters from this fund.

“A re-elected Liberal Government will prepare a formal international relations policy document with a view to better leveraging existing relationships with WA’s major trading partners to expand agricultural exports,” he said.

“We will also continue to support live exports and work with farmers and graziers to ensure continuity of trade, as well as identifying where new export opportunities can be explored.”

A Liberal Government will also commit to keeping commercially viable Tier 3 rail lines open.

“We have committed to keeping all lines open until October and by that time, we will have a clear picture of the state of the tracks, the volume of grain carried on those lines and the condition of the roads in the area. Then we can decide which lines need to stay open and will commit to adequate funding to maintain them,” Mr Barnett said.

“Western Australian farmers are some of the best in the world. Through innovation, investment and pure hard work, our farmers are some of the most advanced dry land farmers. Research and development is integral to ensuring they remain competitive in a global economy.

“We will also invest $800,000 as part of this fund to establish a scholarship scheme for students studying agriculture and natural sciences.

“The Agricultural Sciences Exchange and Scholarship Scheme would give these students financial support to study overseas or interstate;  or complete their honours or thesis.

“We also want to support producers in promoting the unique advantages of certain agricultural regions. To that end we will allocate $1.5million to establish ‘Specialised Food Centres’ to build on the advantages of regional communities at Moora, Katanning and Manjimup.

“We would like to see Katanning, which has an abattoir and recently completed saleyards, exploit its existing advantages to become a specialist meat processing centre. Moora has access to a large fresh water aquifer and we will support it to become a specialised centre for intensive horticulture. The Manjimup area already has an extraordinary range of products on offer and we will support it to become a specialised area for boutique produce.”

Mr Barnett said a re-elected Liberal Government would also:

  • Provide security of tenure for pastoral leases and ensure more fair and equitable rent rates. This includes taking all necessary steps to ensure that pastoral leases set to expire in Western Australia on 30 June 2015 are renewed; ensuring that future annual rent determinations take into account the economic circumstances of the industry, including any regional differences in those circumstances; and ensuring that lease monitoring requirements imposed on pastoral lessees are not unjustifiably onerous
  • Maintain the existing licensing and fee regime for farm dams
  • Commit to introducing reforms to strengthen the private property rights of WA landholders to ensure that where land is acquired on private property, more transparent arrangements are in place and require State Government agencies to take into account, and justify, private property impacts before making regulations and decisions
  • Inject a further $750,000 into the successful Buy West, Eat Best food labelling and marketing scheme.

Mr Barnett said the agriculture industry would also benefit from plans to restructure the Department of Environment and Conservation, creating a dedicated environmental regulatory department separate from the proposed WA Parks Authority.

“The Liberal Government believes that with the right level of support and assistance, the agriculture sector’s future will be even stronger,” he said.

The #wa2013vote website will be kept online so politicians promises and statements can be checked until the end of next WA election in 2017, and after.