Calls for WAF, PGA to unite

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Jenne BrammerCountryman
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New WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington.
Camera IconNew WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington. Credit: Mogens Johansen

WA Farmers’ new chief executive Trevor Whittington wants to start a dialogue between the State’s two peak farm lobby groups about a possible merger of forces.

Whether a merger would proceed would ultimately be decided by the boards and membership of both WAFarmers and the Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association, Mr Whittington said.

But he was keen to see the leadership of both organisations undertake a frank discussion about whether a bigger, merged single farm lobby group would provide better outcomes for the State’s agricultural sector.

“I already talk to the PGA every day. On most economic and policy issues we are very closely aligned so it’s worth investigating whether a stronger single voice would be the best way forward,” he said.

“My advice to WAFarmers is we need to put forward a process where both groups sit down and talk about whether there is an appetite for a more formal arrangement of working together, in helping to address some of the challenges we face as an industry.”

On the issue of the groups having diverging views - a recent example being the proposed corporatisation of Co-operative Bulk Handling - Mr Whittington drew reference to national politics where bigger issues such as same sex marriage are “too big for one party” so are taken to the people to determine a majority position.

Mr Whittington said the discussion with the board would not progress before the new WA Farmers president, to replace Tony York, was elected at the WA Farmers annual general meeting on March 14.

Mr Whittington said to be effective into the future, farm lobby groups needed to raise their profiles and develop more sophisticated policies and engagement, and also be heard at a Federal level, through working with the National Farmers Federation.

He said with the looming Federal election and the possibility of both Federal and State Labor Governments, there could be added pressure on the industry, particularly through live exports, carbon taxes and genetically-modified farming.

WA Farmers is formulating policies about tax, carbon, fuel rebates, telecommunications, trade, live export, research and development funding and transport, he said.

“We need to provide solutions and not just be reactive - not keep walking into the future and looking backwards,” he said.

Mr Whittington had been acting chief of WA Farmers since August but recently inked his contract for a permanent position, following a lifetime experience in management and politics.

Raised on a family farm in Corrigin, Mr Whittington has worked as the chief of staff for State Government Ministers responsible for mines, petroleum, fisheries and agriculture, and has been chief executive of a not-for-profit organisation.

He is also president of Wine of WA.

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