Muchea web plan stalls

Jo FulwoodCountryman

Plans have stalled to trial a new web-based auction program that would allow both buyers and sellers remote access to the Muchea Livestock Centre.

Despite announcing the trial late last year, Saleyard Exchange principal Geoff Twine, who is attempting to launch the service, said bureaucratic hurdles had forced the delay of up to seven months.

Mr Twine said he had been waiting for both the State Solicitor’s Office and the WA Meat Industry Authority to finalise a legal Access Agreement, which would allow him entry into the Muchea saleyards before 8.30am to take the still photos and videos for online upload.

But he said this document appeared to be collecting dust somewhere in the bureaucratic chain.

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“I can’t understand why WAMIA is holding up the process,” he said.

“This innovative product will allow greater competition into the saleyards and will certainly provide a better outcome for livestock producers.”

In a desperate bid to start the process Saleyard Exchange contacted Agriculture Minister Dean Nalder, but in an email to Mr Twine, Mr Nalder refused to intervene in the process.

Mr Twine said he had been regularly promised a copy of the Access Agreement since December last year.

The new interactive systems allows buyers to view the livestock available at the saleyards via a social media-type platform, but all buyers would still be required to purchase through an agent.

Mr Twine said he believed most of the rural livestock agents were supportive of the system, but he was concerned the delay could lose him the competitive advantage in launching his product exclusively at Muchea.

“We have even received support in writing from a prominent agent, so we can’t understand why there had been such a delay,” he said.

WAMIA chief executive Andrew Williams has denied his organisation is attempting to the stall the process, saying the Access Agreement was currently sitting with the State Solicitors Office.

“This has been an ongoing saga for quite some length of time,” he said.

“It (the agreement) has been backwards and forwards between us and the State Solicitor’s office — it hasn’t been sitting at one place or another.

“This is the first agreement where we are allowing a fourth party into the mix, so WAMIA must be sure that we aren’t creating unintended consequences.

“We need to be very very diligent to make sure we aren’t creating a legal problem for somebody else.”

Mr Williams also denied the delay in the finalisation of the Access Agreement had anything to do with a competing web-based auction product.

“I would reject that completely — I haven’t heard rumours of anything else, the suggestion that we would take the commercial preference of one provider over another, I flatly refute,” he said.

“We are a government agency, we don’t play games.

“We are simply here to provide services to the industry, and how the agents sell their livestock, whether traditional auction or otherwise, that’s their choice.

“Its complicated, we have other things bubbling up that we deal with, this gets attention with everything else, that doesn’t mean we are sitting on it.”

Gingin cattle farmer Murray Nixon said he believed the concept deserved a trail period.

“Its definitely a step in the right direction. Whether the cost of doing this is covered by the extra sales and extra prices to make it all worthwhile, well, the only way to know this is to trial it,” he said.

But Mr Nixon said any sales product that put more buyers into the market would be to the benefit of the producer.

“The technology itself is actually already proven because its been used in stud bull sales previously,” he said.

Mr Nixon said with many of the bigger producers selling on-farm, it was important for new and innovative products to come on to the market to ensure the future of the saleyard auction system

“The physical auction is used as a bench mark for the rest of the industry, so its still a very important part of the industry,” he said.

Mr Twine has called for a meeting of producers to demonstrate support for the product to WAMIA.

Mr Williams said he hoped to have the Access Agreement back to Mr Twine over the next week. He said he wouldn’t rule out the trial being up and running within the month.

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