End of the line for Travers

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

WA remains without a shadow agriculture and transport minister almost a fortnight after the resignation of Ken Travers.

Mr Travers resigned from Labor's frontbench at the start of the month citing personal reasons, after being on health-related leave.

One of Labor's hardest workers, he is well-regarded by regional voters, particularly in the Central Wheatbelt, for his work championing rural causes such as farm productivity, and the Tier 3 grain rail issue.

Speaking with _Countryman _ this week, Mr Travers gave a candid interview about his view of Labor's relationship with agriculture in the past, present and now into the future.

He said one of his motivations for entering politics was to help Labor make a mark in agriculture, which he said had been an area the party had sometimes struggled to gain traction.

"I definitely wanted to make a contribution in this space," he said.

"I really feel that I have made some great relationships within the rural sector and with people such as WAFarmers president Dale Park and Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook, whom today I still count as friends.

"Former agriculture minister Kim Chance is somebody that I admired in terms of the role that he did in developing a relationship with rural people.

"So in my opinion I wouldn't be able to come close to his achievements, but he was a minister in a Labor government and he did a great job in making sure that the Labor caucus was aware of agriculture."

Mr Travers said now the challenge for Labor was to remain focused on rural issues.

"Trying to continue the legacy of Mr Chance is very important," he said.

"I intend on making sure my colleagues understand the importance regional development in creating jobs for the future of the State is critically important now.

"Like most industries outside of mining and resources, the sector has been completely forgotten by the current coalition Government in this State, which take rural voters for granted."

Mr Travers said that while he was proud of his accomplishments while in his portfolio, he listed the recent deep cuts to the Department of Agriculture WA as an area he had wanted to hold the Barnett Government to even greater account than he did.

At the last State Budget the Government announced the shedding of 300 more jobs over the next two years, adding to the already severely depleted current workforce.

In response to the cuts, DAFWA has announced the windback of research duties aimed at boosting productivity and profitability on farms.

"I am determined as a member of Parliament that I will continue to promote this issue and other agricultural issues to ensure we can get productivity back into the agricultural section," Mr Travers said.

"Agriculture, at various times, has been the most important industry in WA and it is still one of the top industries for the State.

"If we want a future for WA where we have people in highly skilled and highly paid jobs in the sector then we need to keep ahead of the rest of the world in terms of productivity."

Mr Travers also said more progress could have been made on the Tier 3 grain on rail issue.

"I'm proud of the fact that Labor is still talking about grain on rail because I think the government wanted the decision made in 2010 and that it would all go away," he said.

"It was a bad decision at the time and it continues to be a bad decision today.

"The fact that it is still going five years later and will continue to go on until the issue is dealt with means that it will not go away.

"If I left Parliament tomorrow I would still be working with people like Greg Richards and Jane Fuchsbichler from the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance about this issue because it something that I remain deeply passionate about. It comes down to the need to make rural supply chains more effective, and without rail it impacts on that efficiency."

The WA Labor caucus is expected to select a replacement for Mr Travers in coming weeks.

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