Potato growers spit chips at Galati fight payout

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
VideoTony Galati will have to pay $200,000 after pleading guilty

WA’s potato growers could share in almost $700,000, including a refund of money raised for the since-abandoned legal fight against Tony Galati who grew too many potatoes under the now defunct Potato Marketing Corporation.

Primary Industries Minister Alannah MacTiernan said letters had been sent to 74 potato growers outlining their share of $684,316. The figure comprises a legal costs’ trust fund worth $484,316, plus $200,000 paid in court costs by Galati Nominees after Mr Galati pleaded guilty to contempt of court.

Potato Growers Association chief executive Simon Moltoni said legal advice was being sought given growers were required to sign an eight-page deed agreeing to close any further legal action over the matter.

“The refund is something growers are entitled to, it is their money and should not be encumbered,” he said. “The $200,000 in court costs paid by Galati represents a fraction of the money spent by growers in funding the legal battle.”

Mr Galati was being pursued for damages after allegedly causing a hefty financial loss to other growers by exceeding his allocated PMC quota in 2015 and last year.

That civil damages claim against Mr Galati was dropped by the Government in April, leaving growers who had spent $1.3 million on the legal battle outraged that justice was not permitted to take its course.

The growers then had to reclaim the remainder of their fighting fund because all PMC funds were vested to the Government when the corporation was abolished in December.

Mr Moltoni said he expected to receive his legal advice in coming days.

He said the reality was that growers, currently under financial pressure amid an adjustment to a deregulated market, loss of Eastern States customers because of the detection of the tomato potato psyllid pest in WA, and low prices, would need to take the cash.

“Potato growers desperately need the money and are unlikely to let this opportunity pass. But they are aggrieved with the State Government’s treatment over the whole issue, and feel a gun is being held to their heads,” he said.

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