PGA pushes own land reform plan

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan at the launch of Pew Charitable Trust’s Outback Papers at Frasers Restaurant in Kings Park.
Camera IconAgriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan at the launch of Pew Charitable Trust’s Outback Papers at Frasers Restaurant in Kings Park. Credit: Rueben Hale

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association has developed a land tenure reform proposal to present to the State Government.

PGA president Tony Seabrook said a way forward for the pastoral industry had been thrashed out by the Pastoral Lands Board during a recent meeting in Broome.

The proposal has come just weeks after WA Lands Minister Rita Saffioti committed to picking up where the previous government had failed with its attempt at rangelands reform.

Reform enabling changes to the Land Administration Act had been a long and arduous wrestling match between Mr Seabrook and former lands minister Terry Redman.

Last year, Mr Redman vented frustration in a leaked letter accusing the PGA of failing its members and misrepresenting the powers of the Pastoral Lands Board, a statutory body that would have been scrapped under his proposed reforms.

Mr Seabrook said he was frustrated with the time it has taken to get a meeting with Ms Saffioti but remains hopeful she will adopt a positive approach to the reforms.

He said the knowledge the minister was preparing to consult with the industry on the need for reforms had allowed the industry to consider a way forward.

“The Broome meeting had been a promising first step by pastoralists with skin in the game to move forward,” Mr Seabrook said.

“Next month we will present a plain and simple plan to the minister.

“Our proposal will support retaining the PLB because the current board is some of the most talented people we have ever had representing the pastoral industry and the rangelands.

“Under current legislation the diversification permits are not transferable with the lease, and we look forward to discussing this point along with a better and stronger form of tenure with the minister.”

Meanwhile, WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan appears to have backed key proposed measures underpinning reforms of the WA outback.

Ms MacTiernan was a keynote speaker at environmental group Pew Charitable Trust’s launch of its three-year Outback Papers case study last week, attended by politicians from all sides of politics and business leaders.

Director of Pew’s Outback to Oceans program, Dr Barry Traill, started the night by saying the study’s success stories show the way to create a modern Outback that sustains its people and values its nature.

“A new contract with the land is necessary to sustain the nature and people of the heart of Australia,” Dr Traill said.

“The Outback is one of the last significant regions of nature left on the planet, but we will lose this extraordinary place if we pursue a ‘do nothing’ approach.”

In her speech, Ms MacTiernan supported a new opportunity of reforming rangelands leasehold to allow diversity of enterprises. She also said it was necessary to support Aboriginal land management.

Ms MacTiernan said pastoralists had told her that it was probably “not such a good thing” for her to attend the launch.

“They think I have gone over to the other side and that I was supposed to be the Minister for Agriculture,” she said. “I honestly don’t see the conflict, and I think the part of the message that we have to have is for the long-term economic benefit and to the advantage of people living those outback communities we have got to keep alive the understanding of how we care for the country.

“We can much more benefit by every measure by careful, responsible stewardship of the land.

“Now there are still some groups out there that see this as conflict. [They see] this is groups of people wanting to close down the pastoral industry.”

Mr Seabrook admitted to having a robust discussion about the minister’s decision to attend.

“Let me be very clear in saying that the PGA, which represents the majority of working pastoralists in WA, is not against rangelands reform.

“The Reform Bill put forward by the former lands minister Terry Redman wanted to abolish the Pastoral Lands Board and hand leasehold overnighting powers to the minister of the day.

“This could leave leaseholders, who make up one-third of the rangelands, defenceless.”

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