Nalder takes over agriculture
WA’s peak farm lobby groups have welcomed the addition of the agriculture portfolio to Transport Minister Dean Nalder’s responsibilities.
Mr Nalder, who was born and raised on a farm in Wagin, takes over agricultural responsibilities from Ken Baston, who was not given another ministerial portfolio in this week’s Cabinet shuffle. Mr Baston’s fisheries portfolio was added to Emergency Services and Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis’ duties.
WAFarmers president Tony York said it was disappointing to lose dedicated ministers for agriculture and transport.
“Agriculture has become a key focus of the State’s political agenda in recent years, and the appointment of one singular minister for two portfolios, while potentially complex, offers an opportunity to approach agricultural and transport issues from a different perspective,” he said.
“While we are disappointed for industry to lose a dedicated minister for agriculture as well as a dedicated minister for transport, we expect the interests of WA farmers and primary producers to continue to be well represented by Mr Nalder and his team.”
Mr York said throughout his tenure as minister for agriculture, food and fisheries, WAFarmers had worked very closely with Mr Baston and his team.
He said WAFarmers looked forward to working closely with Mr Nalder, and hoped to foster a stronger relationship with the minister moving forward.
“In the past, WAFarmers and Mr Nalder have had a testing relationship, primarily surrounding the issues of tier three lines on the railway system,” Mr York said.
“We anticipate that Mr Nalder’s appointment as minister for two portfolios will result in a more streamlined and holistic approach to agriculture, transport and agricultural transport issues, particularly regarding ports and railways.”
Pastoralists and Graziers Association chairman Tony Seabrook said Mr Nalder’s appointment as agriculture minister was good news for the sector.
“Prior dealings with Mr Nalder over transport issues have installed a lot of confidence,” he said.
“In any interactions I have had, Mr Nalder has always been on top of his game. Mr Nalder came to terms with the role of Minister for Transport very quickly and was up to speed with every part of that. I expect he will do the same for agriculture.
“I’ve always found Mr Nalder to be very open-minded and prepared to listen.
“I look forward to working with him.”
Mr Seabrook said the fact Mr Nalder would retain the transport portfolio could also be beneficial to some areas of agriculture.
Mr Baston said he was proud of his three-year term as minister for agriculture and food, and fisheries.
“It’s been a challenging and rewarding three years but the hard work has been done,” he said.
Acknowledging that agriculture was critical to the State’s bottom line, with 80 percent of produce exported, Mr Baston said: “Hopefully I have cleared the decks for a turnaround in agriculture and the role played by DAFWA.
“Through talks with farmers, industry and other parties, I have paved the way for the Government to make positive announcements about wild dogs, potatoes and a new Department of Agriculture and Food WA headquarters.
“I have driven the deregulation of potatoes, the repeal of the restrictive genetically modified crop laws, through to the stocktake review of the department.
“I placed priority on the pastoral industry by addressing the wild dog problem, starting with the $100 bounty per dog, through to the development of a comprehensive $15 million strategy involving fencing, baiting and doggers.
“We’ve introduced Doppler radars to give farmers more timely information at a cost of $23 million; opened a sterile medfly facility opened in Carnarvon, allowing the $100 million horticulture industry in the Gascoyne to resume exports in the future; and expanded markets and achieved a price increase for live cattle exports, including Vietnam which increased its Australian imports from 1500 head to 2000,000 head over the past four years.”
Mr Baston’s last move as minister was to force Treasurer Mike Nahan to back down on the issue of crucial livestock biosecurity and grains research jobs.
Dr Nahan bowed to pressure to grant exemptions under the State Government’s hiring freeze to allow the Department of Agriculture and Food WA to fill 47 jobs. They include the position of WA chief veterinary officer.
It is not known what progress will be made on a review of DAWFA that Mr Baston instigated barely a fortnight ago.
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