Nalder on a knife’s edge

Brad Thompson and Daniel EmersonCountryman
Agriculture Minister Dean Nalder could have been forgiven for contemplating his future as he sat on a barrel watching Stacey McCarthy at last week’s Dowerin field days.
Camera IconAgriculture Minister Dean Nalder could have been forgiven for contemplating his future as he sat on a barrel watching Stacey McCarthy at last week’s Dowerin field days. Credit: Bob Garnant

Agriculture Minister Dean Nalder’s future in Cabinet remains uncertain after he was banned by Colin Barnett from attending a Cabinet meeting in Moora on Tuesday.

Mr Nalder was also forced to cancel meetings with local farmers in the town after the Premier’s intervention.

It is understood Mr Barnett advised Mr Nalder he was not wanted in Moora because his presence risked turning the regional Cabinet meeting into a “media circus” after the tumultuous events of last week.

The move to exclude a key minister from Cabinet deliberations continues the fallout from private polling commissioned by investment banker John Poynton and others that showed the Liberal Party would have a better chance of winning the March election if Mr Barnett was replaced as leader.

Mr Nalder was due to appear at an event at the Moora Performing Arts Centre along with Mr Barnett and other ministers.

He was a late withdrawal for the event attended by community leaders at the invitation of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Prominent farmers said they were disappointed to have been denied the chance to meet Mr Nalder at a crucial time for the industry.

Moora is one of the districts preparing for a record harvest and crops received another valuable soaking at the weekend.

Shire president Ken Seymour said harvesting a crop forecast to top 17.5 million tonnes across the Wheatbelt and moving the crop into storage or to port for shipping were major issues.

“He was the one minister we were more than keen to talk to on the eve of the biggest harvest in our history barring a frost event,” Mr Seymour, who is also the president of the local Liberal Party branch, said.

“This whole district runs on agriculture and transport.”

Moving the crop will have a big impact on fragile country roads and highlight a bitter dispute over access to taxpayer-owned rail freight lines leased to Brookfield by the State Government.

WAFarmers president Tony York said the sector was still building a relationship with Mr Nalder, who had been Agriculture Minister only since late March, and his absence was a missed opportunity to engage with locals.

“We hope they resolve these issues as quickly as possible because we are very interested in the continuity of leadership in transport and agriculture,” Mr York said.

Nationals Agriculture Region MLC Martin Aldridge said locals asked questions about natural resource management and the potential for the Government to offload a Badgingarra research station at the forum.

It was fortunate Nationals Minister for Regional Development Terry Redman, a former agriculture minister, was there to answer them, he said.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails