Redundancies rock GRDC

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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The Grains Research and Development Corporation is in the midst of a large shake-up, with about 30 roles being made redundant while new positions are being established across the major grain-producing zones, including WA.

Currently WA has just one full-time and one part-time staff member, based at GRDC's Perth office in Bentley, servicing the western region zone. This will likely be increased to around five.

Additional resources would be added to the two other key grain growing regions, the northern zone (which includes Queensland and northern New South Wales) and the eastern zone (Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and southern NSW). The new structure will likely be in place by August 1.

GRDC communications manager Kylie Dunstan said the overall headcount of around 70 staff nationally was not expected to change.

Under the spill and fill mechanism, staff will be able to apply for new roles, though many of the new positions are based in regional locations and some are believed to be at lower pay grades.

Alternatively, affected staff could choose redundancy, though there are no forced redundancies at this stage.

It is understood that most Canberra-based staff, excluding the executive committee, are affected by the shake-up.

Ms Dunstan said the staffing changes were part of a transition to a new structure that had been in the pipeline since earlier this year.

It follows an extensive external review to better align the corporation's operations, structure, systems, processes, outcomes and outputs to benefit the grains industry in Australia.

The external review identified the need for structural reform to more closely align with both government and industry agendas, according to a statement issued by the GRDC in June.

Ms Dunstan said the relocation plans were not related to Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce's recent plan to move the GRDC head office away from Canberra.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association grain section president John Snooke said his organisation was reluctant to get involved in the GRDC's restructure plans.

"Our issue with the GRDC is a lack of productivity," he said.

"This is merely rearranging the deck chairs and is unlikely to lead to the necessary productivity improvements."

Meanwhile, an inquiry report considering the industry structures and systems governing the imposition of and disbursement of marketing and research and development levies in the agricultural sector was tabled in the Senate on Tuesday.

WA Senator Linda Reynolds co-sponsored the Senate inquiry with Senator David Leyonhjelm after WA growers raised serious concerns about the perceived lack of transparency and accountability in the current levy system.

The tabling of the committee report followed 10 months of testimony from various parts of industry at hearings held across Australia.

"The report found the current system was complicated, difficult, opaque and unaccountable," Senator Reynolds said.

Among key recommendations in the report was an amendment to the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991, to enable the collection and distribution of levy payer information, which would allow the creation of levy payer databases.

Also recommended was the establishment of a cost-effective, automated agricultural levy system that should identify levy payers against levies paid.

The automated system should provide for more immediate settlement of levy fees paid and the allocation of voting entitlements.

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