Sustainability a talking point

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Kojonup shearing contractor Lowanna Jury, WA Shearing Industry Association president Darren Spencer, WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and WASIA vice president Brian Hipper.
Camera IconKojonup shearing contractor Lowanna Jury, WA Shearing Industry Association president Darren Spencer, WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and WASIA vice president Brian Hipper. Credit: Bob Garnant

The WA shearing industry welcomed State Government input into tackling sustainability issues at a meeting in Perth on Saturday.

At the WA Shearing Industry Association annual general meeting, WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan recognised the importance of shearing to the farming sector.

“As the sheep and wool industry continue to boom with strong prices, we are struggling to find shearers, while at the same time country towns face high unemployment,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan said she understood the hard workload shearers faced and proposed the solution to attracting and retaining staff would be the development of automation.

“There is a need to make a tough, physical job as comfortable as possible, guided by the occupational health and safety guidelines,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan said she was working with Australian Wool Innovation to develop industry education tools to improve skills in the workforce.

Another alternative in gaining skilled shearers, backed by WASIA, was for the Australian Government to consider issuing work visas to shearers from the United Kingdom.

Ms MacTiernan said she would discuss the issue with Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie this week during her visit to Perth.

Another area of concern for the State Government at the meeting was the size of the WA sheep flock, which is at a historical low of 13.5–14 million head.

“There has been some successful work done on lifting fertility with Multi Purpose Merinos,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“It is hopeful the money spent on repairs to the State Barrier Fence will see pastoral holdings back in sheep.”

Ms MacTiernan said Aboriginal fencing teams were also likely candidates to be trained into the shearing industry, providing further employment to the bush.

The live sheep export trade was also discussed, with Ms MacTiernan adamant that it would “fade away” within the next 10 years.

“The industry will be facing extra costs from new international maritime rules and it will become economically unsustainable,” she said.

At the meeting, WASIA reported it had gained 10 new members during 2018–19.

WASIA president Darren Spencer said this would make the 76–member association stronger and more influential in the shearing industry.

Mr Spencer said the industry needed to focus on shed safety and farmers needed to provide suitable toilet and washing facilities.

“WASIA is part of the concentrated effort to lift the threshold on payroll tax for our members,” he said.

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