Industry Comment

Gallop must back off on Yarragadee

Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA

PREMIER Geoff Gallop must heed the clear message from a new socio-economic survey released on July 2 that had both city and country people strongly opposed to drawing water for Perth from the massive Yarragadee aquifer near Augusta.

PGA president Barry Court said there had been a "resounding thumbs down" from both city and South West communities in a CSIRO study of the Water Corporation proposal to tap into the Yarragadee to pipe water to Perth.

"Both city and country people in the survey wanted this ancient, untapped and largely unchartered water resource conserved and confined to promoting economic growth, lifestyle and environmental security in the South West region," he said.

"That is in line with the united opposition to the proposal from local shires in the South West and the protests from commercial water users as well as environmental groups over the Gallop Government’s move to ‘plunder the Yarragadee for Perth’.

Mr Court said the absence of a clear water policy for WA was already creating chaos.

"Farmers, orchardists and horticulturalists, who generate hundreds of millions in export earnings for the State, have been told that they no longer own the water in their own dams and that they will have restricted access rights to underground and river water for their enterprises," he said.

"Already private investment in more efficient use of water to maintain cheap food supplies at home, as well as new export wealth, is grinding to a halt as banks and landowners realise that basic access and rights to water have been seriously diminished."

Stop the clock on water decisions


WAFARMERS has welcomed notification that the Government’s Public Administration and Finance Committee has commenced an inquiry into water services following the referral of the matter to the committee by the Legislative Council.

WAFarmers president Colin Nicholl said the decision vindicated his organisation’s strong stance on water security, its criticism of last year’s Water Symposium and the development of the State water strategy.

"This announcement is as close as we’ll get to an admission from the Government that last year’s process was badly flawed," he said.

"From our initial submission on the Draft State Water Strategy in September 2002 to our current involvement in the consultation process in relation to the Water Resource Management Charges and Yarragadee proposals, we have maintained the line that beyond lip service, agriculture has been given scant consideration and has opposed the proposals with considered and logical argument.

"WAFarmers has participated in these processes in good faith but to continually have the finger of Government pointed at agriculture as a major water user in need of reform and then have token consideration given to our input has been extremely frustrating and this announcement appears to open the door to revisit the process and get it right.

"We have no difficulty in accepting that the research into the Yarragadee proposal should continue in the interests of providing future security of water resources to our members but by stopping the clock on the unrealistic timeframe in relation to making decisions on these proposals, the Government would reintroduce some much-needed credibility into its purported policy of full and open consultation."

Wheat growers seek senate solace

Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA

PGA Western Grain Growers has welcomed legislation to maintain scrutiny of anomalies in Australia’s wheat marketing system but has urged an ongoing role for the Senate in ensuring that the interests of wheat growers are protected.

The PGA’s Leon Bradley said Parliament had decided that wheat growers would now pay between 12 and 15 cents per tonne until 2006 to fund the Wheat Export Authority, "a body already found wanting in its independence and responsibilities to growers as watchdog of the AWB group".

"Wheat growers who are concerned at the growing arrogance of AWB Ltd – conferred largely by unquestioned access to the benefits of the single desk for wheat held by AWB – will also be concerned that a proposed new review process is to be at the direction of a Minister who is keen to retain the status quo.

"This is a review that should have been carried out by the Productivity Commission or similar body with the powers and independence to take up where the Senate Standing Committee review of the Wheat Marketing Act left off.

"Passing the legislation now means that growers will be looking to the Senate firstly to ensure that the Minister’s review is truly independent, by disallowing any unsuited nominations he may propose for the three-man committee and, secondly, to ensure that the Senate Standing Committee continues to keep the issue under review."

Mr Bradley said he expected wheat growers would come to resent having to pay for the Wheat Export Authority to continue when, even with some strengthening of its powers, it would remain a toothless tiger in terms of its interests and an apologist for the actions of the AWB group.

Dairy industry dealt another blow


THE release of National Foods New Financial Year Milk Supply contract offer will cripple the WA dairy industry, cutting their own suppliers adrift in a pool of surplus milk.

The new contracts issued by National Foods seek producers to accept a 40 per cent reduction in their contracted volume for the six months from July to December 2003.

WAFarmers Dairy Section president Tony Pratico said National Foods suppliers were given no indication that a reduction in contracted volume would be sought.

"One could be forgiven for thinking that the National Foods milk supply manager has a ‘tap’ mentality to milk supplies, believing that producers can simply switch off their cows," he said.

"We know that no one in the dairy industry is that naïve so we must question National Foods’ motive for such a drastic reduction without warning.

"We see a hint of motive when we hear they are seeking a more flexible purchasing arrangement.

"The primary objective by National Foods with their latest contract offer, we believe, is that they are seeking to create their own pool of ‘Spot Price Milk’ that currently sits at around 14 cents a litre.

"The only obvious reason to achieve such a reduction in the cost of their milk purchases is that they have drastically reduced their tendered price to the supermarkets.

"This can only mean that dairy farmers will have to bear the brunt of a continuation in the milk price discounting war."

Electricity market moves welcomed

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA

THE Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA strongly endorses State Cabinet’s decision to grant final approval to implement changes to WA’s electricity sector.

Reform of the sector to open the market and bring about lower electricity prices through competition is essential. WA electricity prices are among the highest in Australia and WA businesses can ill afford to stay burdened by them and at a competitive disadvantage compared to other States.

Industry has argued the case for changes of this kind for more than a decade.

State Cabinet was correct to stick to the July 1 2004 recommended deadline to segregate Western Power into four separate corporations. This is the critical first step without which it will prove very difficult, if not impossible, to deliver competitive outcomes.

Industry players are chafing at the bit to enter the deregulated marketplace to take advantage of the opportunities that will be presented.

The decision to push pack the introduction of a wholesale electricity market for a year to July 2006 is disappointing but understandable given the size of the task and the importance of getting the arrangements right.

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