WA grain growers are putting pressure on the Prime Minister to intervene in the sector’s woes by addressing the shortage of skilled workers, saying the State Government has been “asleep at the wheel”. Just weeks out from the harvesting season starting, WAFarmers Grains Council president Mic Fels told The West Australian he was calling on Scott Morrison to step in as a last-ditch attempt to approve Bladin Village in the Northern Territory as a quarantine facility for international harvest workers. It comes as WA’s winter crops are set for another bumper year. According to the Australian Crop Report out today (by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, WA is expected to deliver a record haul of 20.3 million tonnes of grain worth more than $7 billion this season, which is 33 per cent above the 10-year average to 2020–21. That’s almost 40 per cent of the national crops, which is projected to be 54.8 million tonnes with a record-breaking 23.2 million hectares planted. “The PM does need to be involved. He should be buying into the idea of a quarantine facility at Bladin Village and showing some leadership,” Mr Fels said. “Unless it’s iron ore or COVID, nobody seems to care. The State Government is asleep at the wheel. We’re a massive support for the economy. Both the State and Federal Governments need us. We’ve preparing for one of our best ever seasons — potentially a record — and there’s been nothing done to resolve this. “We really need them to wake up to the grains industry and realise that we could be a ticket out of recession because of COVID.” Mr Fels said Premier Mark McGowan had “turned his back on this critical issue” by not raising the State’s labour shortage at National Cabinet. He said the industry in WA needed up to 4000 skilled workers this season. “The Premier’s just not interested. Zero COVID is his only real agenda at the moment. We’ve been abandoned by the State Government,” he said. “In Western Australia, we’re the second biggest industry after mining but the government is deaf to us. The Australian economy needs the income but the governments are not capitalising on this opportunity. “Just the Western Australian crop alone is worth about $7 billion, and it’s costing about a billion every week in support payments to keep NSW and Victoria going. The WA crop would buy us seven weeks of government support for the two States.” Mr McGowan told The West quarantine options were a federal responsibility and that the State Government had “consistently pushed hard to support the agricultural workforce”. “That is why we have repeatedly asked the Commonwealth to stand up one of their facilities – like Christmas Island – to quarantine harvest workers,” Mr McGowan said. “This has been going on for months. But the Commonwealth has ignored those repeated requests. We need the Commonwealth to show some leadership, get on with the Bladin Village proposal and help our farmers in time for harvest.” However, Agricultural Minister David Littleproud said that was not the case. “Premier McGowan and all Premiers reaffirmed on December 11, 2020, at National Cabinet that they would maintain responsibility for quarantining of agricultural workers,” Mr Littleproud told The West. “The process agreed to was that Premiers were to write to the Prime Minister with their quarantine arrangements and the Commonwealth would process the visas. This process has not changed. “If WA wanted to use Bladin Point for their workers they would have to reach an agreement with the NT Government about its management with the support of respective Chief Health Officers and if that was achieved the Australian Government would then be in a position to approve visas.” The Prime Minister’s office did not confirm whether Mr Morrison would intervene on the matter.