Grylls back with big plans

Rueben HaleCountryman
Nationals leader Brendon Grylls, pictured at State Parliament this week.
Camera IconNationals leader Brendon Grylls, pictured at State Parliament this week. Credit: Danella Bevis

Reappointed Nationals leader Brendon Grylls says now he has taken back the reins of power within the party, he plans to be anything but the “little guy” in the room.

It has been a tumultuous return as leader of his party for Mr Grylls, who says his decision to reclaim the top job was driven by a need to fix the State’s cashflow problem.

Just over a fortnight ago Mr Grylls seized leadership of the WA Nationals from Terry Redman in ambush fashion, while calling for a production tax on BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto: $5 for every tonne of iron ore they produce, in lieu of negotiating a deal with the Federal Government for a greater share of the GST.

He said he was focusing on implementing an “aggressive agenda” to stimulate the State’s economy and create jobs, particularly so WA can be ready for the long-anticipated agricultural boom.

“The WA Nationals have proposed a new revenue source of raising the 25 cent production rental in the old State Agreement Acts to $5,” he said.

Mr Grylls said he had a track record of filling his promises, such as implementing the $300 million Seizing the Opportunity program to stimulate the State’s agricultural sector.

“Royalties for Regions already has delivered the biggest investment by government in the State’s agricultural history,” he said.

“This program is the reason why we have renewed vigour in WA’s north,” he said.

But Mr Grylls was not so upbeat about the recent failure of former Nationals leader Terry Redman to get the Land Administration Amendment Bill through Parliament.

The Bill, which was key to Mr Redman’s rangelands reform agenda, was seen by many in the northern pastoral areas as an opportunity to open traditional cattle station country up to billions of dollars in land diversification opportunities.

“I am a strong supporter of the reforms and clearly there were some economic benefits to be had for the State, but I thought there was some contentious elements in regard to the Pastoral Lands Board,” Mr Grylls said.

“The guaranteed rollover of pastoral leases was the absolute key to give the ability to transfer diversification permits. The PGA and others, including the WA Liberals, say that they don’t support it, so eight years of work has essentially stalled and the status quo is what the end result is going to be.”

Mr Grylls said he had a “distinct interest” in agriculture.

“The regaining of the party’s leadership wasn’t a play to get agriculture back, but it was a play to have an influence on the larger economic agenda for WA,” he said.

“Agriculture has always been a traditional National Party portfolio, but under my leadership lots of traditions of the Nationals have been broken in the last eight years of government and one of them is that we don’t sit in the corner and get told what to do; we command our own destiny.”

“We are doing everything we can to offer the way out of the State’s economic downturn.

“We have offered a revenue source with the increase in royalties and people have been very strong in coming back and endorsing that.”

Mr Grylls said as part of his new agenda he would pursue agreements that had a mutual benefit to industry players and constituents of the whole State, but won’t be brokering deals on agreements that don’t.

“With the sale of Fremantle Port for example we haven’t seen that anything could be put into place at the moment that would alleviate those concerns,” he said.

“But in the case of the sale of the TAB, if I can marry up the industries objectives with a benefit to government as well, you may get to the point that you have the parameters to proceed with the sale.”

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