GRDC boss: There’s no beef between GRDC and WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan
The new boss of Australia’s biggest grains research investor has fobbed off suggestions the organisation is at war with WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, instead saying she is “great”.
Nigel Hart, the new managing director of Grains Research Development Corporation, said he met Ms MacTiernan last month while visiting Perth for his first time since taking on the role at GRDC in April.
Ms MacTiernan has been outspoken about bolstering WA’s share of the $180m-$200m GRDC invests in research and development each year, with the cash co-funded by farmers’ levies.
Her latest swipe was met with good-spirited laughter while standing side-by-side with GRDC chief executive John Woods at the Australian Grain Export Innovation Centre on June 8.
The pair were announcing a joint $24m contribution to keep the Perth-based AEGIC operating for the next four years, through funding of $6m per year each year until 2026.
Ms MacTiernan said the State Government would continue to invest in WA’s grains research capability to disprove what she said was a GRDC argument that WA’s “limited research capability” was making it a less attractive place to invest.
Speaking to Countryman, Mr Hart said he believed Ms MacTiernan “wore her heart on her sleeve” and genuinely wanted the best for WA grain growers.
“We take her feedback and we are prepared and willing to invest in projects, which are actually going to deliver impact and value for WA,” he said.
“One of the things we would say is we are a national organisation, and we are about ‘team Australia’, and we are here to make sure we are doing national projects that share the value and benefits of those investments right across the country.”
Mr Hart said GRDC wanted to bolster investment in WA but he “had to be honest” and say that for a number of years, research capacity had been lost in WA.
“It is a credit to Alannah, that she is fighting the good fight in securing $25 million to rebuild that capability in WA and we are going to be around the table looking at who we can co-invest with,” he said.
“This includes government, universities, and the CSIRO… or other research and development corporations to look at how we can work on integrated or mixed farming operations.”
Mr Hart said many grains industry leaders looked at GRDC’s $180m to $200m investment from a “state perspective”, but GRDC looked at it from a national perspective.
“Many of the varieties that are major varieties in WA, actually originated from breeding programs in South Australia,” he said.
“We are very passionate about the states where we come from and where we live, but GRDC looks at how we can grow the Australian pie.
“Ultimately we are competing in a global market and competing for global customers, so we need to do all of those things and use those skills and capabilities we have right across Australia.
“They are to help us maintain that competitive positioning in a global market.”
When asked what percentage of GRDC spend went to WA, Mr Hart said it was difficult to break up to percentages because there were programs based in some states that had funding in others.
“Cutting up the pie isn’t that simple, you would like to think it could be but it isn’t,” he said.
“Roughly speaking, it is fairly equal… but there are areas – particularly in WA – we want to see more investment.”
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