25/02/2010 - 00:00

GM-crop controversy heads to parliament

25/02/2010 - 00:00


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State Agriculture Minister Terry Redman faced a small but angry crowd on the steps of Parliament House this week protesting his decision to allow genetically modified canola to be grown throughout the state.

State Agriculture Minister Terry Redman faced a small but angry crowd on the steps of Parliament House this week protesting his decision to allow genetically modified canola to be grown throughout the state.

A host of groups opposed to the government’s move had urged their followers to besiege parliament – calling protesting shoppers to join anti-GM farmers calling for Mr Redman to back down.

Among those opposed were the GM-free Consumers Network, the Network of Concerned Farmers, the Conservation Council and Organic Association.

Mr Redman was shouted down by the small crowd before he could offer more than a sentence on the matter.

The issue also played out on the airwaves. The talkback radio audience offered a mixed response to GM.

Some listeners wanted to see better labelling laws to ensure they had a choice when it came to purchasing or consuming GM foods.

However, the anti-GM brigade faces an uphill battle with both farmer lobby groups, WA Farmers and the Pastoralists & Graziers Association, backing the move to allow GM canola crops in WA after a successful wide-scale trial last year.

About 95 per cent of the WA canola crop is exported, meaning local consumers have very little market power when it comes to stopping GM development.

Furthermore, export markets offer no premium for the non-GM product. With expectations that GM crops will ultimately yield significantly more than their traditionally bred cousins, the market is shifting towards widespread adoption of the technology as has occurred in Canada and US.

MacTiernan quits

State Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan has announced she will quit the shadow cabinet this week.

The former state Planning and Infrastructure Minister is challenging Liberal MHR Don Randall for the seat of Canning at the next federal election, expected later this year.

Electioneering at federal level has already started, with new federal Liberal leader Tony Abbott continuously on the campaign trail and even Kevin Rudd reducing his international Prime Ministerial travel schedule to focus on this year’s poll.

Ms MacTiernan decided to run for the federal seat after failing to win the state Labor leadership after the party was dumped from office in late 2008 after eight years in power.

She has been Labor's Regional Development and Infrastructure spokeswoman and also handled climate change issues.

One of Labor’s strongest performers for years, Ms MacTiernan has previously told WA Business News that one of the issues she wanted to campaign on for the federal seat was climate change.

However, that subject has become less of a political strongpoint since the Liberals moved late last year under Mr Abbott to defeat Mr Rudd’s emissions trading scheme.

Ms MacTiernan has been in the state parliament since 1993 and currently holds the outer metropolitan seat of Armadale.

In 2008 she won 56 per cent of the primary vote and 65 per cent of the vote after distribution of preferences, according to the WA Electoral Commission.

Mr Randall has held the seat of Canning since 2001. In 2007 he received 49.7 per cent of the primary vote and 55.7 per cent of the secondary vote, a swing of nearly 4 per cent against him.

Albany cash

The state government has allocated a further $31 million towards the new Albany Health Campus after savings were identified on other health capital works projects.

The extra funding brings the total cost of the new campus to $166 million, according to state Treasurer Troy Buswell.

“This increase in funding will ensure the State Government delivers on its promise to build a new, modern and efficient hospital by 2012,” Mr Buswell said in a statement.

The Albany Health Campus is described as the biggest public country hospital development ever undertaken in this state.

“The government believes regional communities deserve the full benefits of new, purpose-designed facilities that provide a quality health service,” Mr Buswell said.

“These long term benefits can only be realised by meeting the capital cost of the new campus up-front.”

WA Business News understands that savings were identified after several health projects came under budget. Further information was being sought at time of publishing.

Construction of the health campus, which will service more than 50,000 local residents and visitors, is scheduled to start in early 2011 and be completed late 2012, allowing the new hospital to be operational in early 2013.

Expressions of interest for the design and construction of the health campus closed earlier last week, with the government claiming it had a strong response from prospective contractors.

Broome ramp-up

The Shire of Broome has approved plans for new development that could ultimately become home to 13,000 people in the region where land has been constrained due to native title issues.

State Lands Minister Brendon Grylls said in a statement that the development – dubbed Broome North – would ensure enough land supply to accommodate future increased demand from the local community and buyers moving north for job opportunities.

The move is part of a number of regional projects in the north aimed at increasing land availability to meet population growth due to the significant level of development taking place in the region.

Broome, mainly a tourism town, has been constrained for years.

With the go-ahead for the James Price Point LNG plant 60km north of the city, expectations are that growth will continue apace.

The state government said the development would include residential, light industrial, retail and commercial land, as well as provision for schools, and sporting and community facilities.

Mr Grylls said the Planning Design Forum, which kicked off the project, was an innovative way of speeding up the design process while simultaneously taking the community’s views into account.

WAPC consideration of the plans should be released in the next two weeks.

Construction was expected to start in May, with the first residential and industrial land to be released later this year.

Further stages of land would be released to the private sector through an EOI process later this year.


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