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Farm groups welcome new PM

Headshot of Jenne Brammer
Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

WA's peak farm lobby groups believe Malcolm Turnbull's appointment as Prime Minister is positive for agriculture.

Mr Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott as Federal Liberal leader on Monday night, winning a partyroom ballot 54-44, and was sworn in as Australia's 29th prime minister on Tuesday.

Pastoralista and Graziers Association chairman Tony Seabrook said thus far Mr Turnbull had little exposure to agriculture and it would take time for him to get up to speed with the industry.

"However what he does have is a good, strong background in commerce, which should position him well to confront the important issues facing agriculture," he said.

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"We look forward to engaging with him on these."

WAFarmers president Dale Park has welcomed the leadership change, but did not anticipate radical changes to policy affecting agriculture.

"If anyone is thinking there will be wholesale changes due to a change in leader, they are going to be very disappointed," Mr Park said.

"There will be changes in nuances rather than full-scale policy."

Mr Park and Mr Seabook agreed that under Mr Turnbull's leadership, it was important the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement was ratified as soon as possible in order to secure the massive benefits to the State's agriculture sector.

"I would be staggered if Malcolm Turnbull did not move forward with this," Mr Seabrook said.

"It is one of the best things to happen in agriculture and it's difficult not to realise this."

This view was reflected by National Farmers' Federation president Brent Finlay, who said building consensus on the China FTA must be a priority so rural and regional Australia could capitalise on its enormous potential.

In terms of building relationships with Indonesia, Mr Seabrook said the fact Julie Bishop remained in her job as minister for foreign affairs was beneficial.

Mr Park was confident Barnaby Joyce's position as agriculture minister would not be affected by the change.

"Mr Turnbull is unlikely to go out of his way to pick a fight with the Nationals," he said.

"The Nationals have a certain number of places for cabinet ministers and the agricultural ministry has always been a National portfolio, so I doubt there will be any changes.

"Mr Turnbull will have clear problems within the Liberal Party that he needs to fix first. I don't' think he will be that worried about Barnaby Joyce."

Mr Seabrook said he could not comment on Mr Joyce's future role, but was hopeful he and Mr Turnbull would have a fruitful relationship.

Meanwhile, Mr Park said he was keen for Mr Turnbull to progress with much-needed tax reforms.

"That means we put away the slogans about no tax going up under a Liberal Government," he said. "If you drop some taxes you have to put up others. Tony Abbott was a man of slogans and he lived by the slogans."

Mr Finlay, meanwhile, said NFF looked forward to an ongoing and constructive engagement with the Government on issues that mattered most to Australian farmers. He said a modern Australia, with a strong rural voice, would enhance Australia's competitiveness on the global stage.

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