18/05/2010 - 14:23

Farm groups call for state budget funds

18/05/2010 - 14:23

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Farm lobby groups have made a last minute pitch for more funding for port and rail infrastructure ahead of Thursday's state budget.

Farm lobby groups have made a last minute pitch for more funding for port and rail infrastructure ahead of Thursday's state budget.

The Western Australian Farmers Federation called on the Barnett government to match funding for the state's grain on rail network before it loses federal government funds.

WAFarmers transport spokesperson Colin Nicholl said that with the federal government not providing new funding for WA's grain on rail infrastructure in last week's budget, the state government had one last chance to access federal funds in this financial year.

The federal government last week allocated $1 billion from the budget to upgrade the country's rail freight network, with WA's share less than $100 million for the line between Koolyanobbing, near Kalgoorlie.

"It is imperative that the State Government backs up its verbal support for Western Australia's grain rail network, particularly the Tier Three lines, with the necessary funding allocation in this week's State budget," Mr Nicholl said.

"With the rail network remaining a Government asset, it makes good business sense that the State Government maintain this asset at a level which provides a modern rail network capable of servicing Western Australia's $4 billion grains industry.

"WAFarmers and the community has been consistent with its message to the Government that grain movements must remain on rail as opposed to road."

The federation recently wrote to the Barnett government to seek funding assurances in the 2010-11 state budget. It has yet to receive a reply.

Separately, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association has called on the state government to keep its pre-election promise to proceed with the James Point port, an alternative to the Fremantle port.

The call follows comments by Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt yesterday that live animal exports should be phased out in the next five years at his city's port.

"Everyone but the Fremantle Port Authority agrees that livestock shipping infrastructures must be moved out of Fremantle in the interests of further improving animal welfare, because the industry has gone as far as it can with new ships and practises that have dramatically lifted trade standards and success rates," PGA president Rob Gilliam said.

"Congestion, poor road infrastructures, and delays in the Fremantle port itself are now our biggest remaining barrier to achieving even higher welfare standards and shipping success rates.

"The Barnett Government made a pre-election commitment to proceed with a new alternate port at James Point, but opposition from the Fremantle Port Authority is believed to be behind the project being stalemated.

"A PGA meeting with officials from Transport Minister Simon O'Brien last week indicated little progress on James Point because of the delaying tactics of a number of government agencies.

"While the Government allows this situation to continue, we will continue to have people like the Mayor of Fremantle and opponents to the livestock export industry using the declining port standards at Fremantle as an excuse for slamming the live export trade."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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