Brown sees red over WAFarmers

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Agricultural Region MLC Paul Brown has labelled lobby group WAFarmers an "irrelevant group".

Mr Brown made the comments in Parliament last week during a debate in the Legislative Council over a Bill which potentially criminalises peaceful protests, including those staged by farmers on issues affecting agriculture.

He accused WAFarmers of "yelling at government" from the front page, rather than consulting with Nationals WA, before going to the media.

Last week, WAFarmers put out a press release objecting to vague terms in the Bill such as "use of things" to prevent protesters employing a range of locking devices to perform peaceful protests, saying it could have an unintended impact on farmers wishing to protest about agricultural issues.

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Speaking with _ Countryman _later, Mr Brown clarified his outburst, claiming his statement was taken out of context. "What I meant to say is that WAFarmers are an irrelevant organisation in the context of their lack of representation to us," he said.

Mr Brown said he had never been asked by WAFarmers for an interview.

"We had sought support from them at the last election for our $300 million agricultural package, but we were given no credence by them for that package," he said. "With the Bill being debated by the Legislative Council, WAFarmers chooses to go straight to the media on the issue."

WAFarmers president Dale Park rejected Mr Brown's criticism of his lobby group, saying he seemed to be harbouring some sort of resentment towards the organisation, dating back to the last election. He said the Nationals had failed in four areas, including Tier 3 and their 10-point scorecard used to rate synergies between State political parties and the lobby group's policies at the time.

"The claim by Mr Brown that WAFarmers did not support the Nationals' agricultural package is utter rubbish," he said.

"If the Member for the Agricultural Region bothered to check his facts properly he would find WAFamers in fact embraced the Nationals' policy."

Shadow minister for agriculture Ken Travers has accused Mr Brown of arrogance.

"Has he ever thought to call them?" he asked.

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