12/11/2008 - 22:00

Redman ready on hot-button issues

12/11/2008 - 22:00


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FOR someone who wasn't even a member of a political party just four years ago, Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman has settled comfortably into his new, if somewhat unexpected, role.

Redman ready on hot-button issues

FOR someone who wasn't even a member of a political party just four years ago, Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman has settled comfortably into his new, if somewhat unexpected, role.

"If you asked me three months ago if I'd be in this position, I would've said no," Mr Redman told WA Business News.

Modesty aside, the 45-year-old former agricultural college principal was pegged as one of the National Party's rising stars some time ago, and someone likely to take up a ministerial portfolio.

Mr Redman is one of three Nationals WA members to take up portfolios in the new cabinet, alongside Sport and Recreation, Racing and Gaming Minister Terry Waldron, and Nationals leader and Regional Development Minister, Brendon Grylls.

In addition, Nationals MP Grant Woodhams was elected speaker of the Legislative Assembly last week, further stamping the party's presence on new political landscape.

"We had discussions that if we got into this position our target was to represent regional WA first and foremost. We weren't geared to chasing portfolios," Mr Redman said.

"We just wanted to have regional representation."

The agriculture and food portfolio encompasses a number of hot-button issues that stir up passionate debate among the community, most notably genetically modified crops, biofuels, and the environment.

Raised in regional WA, in locations as far north as the Kimberley to the south near Esperance, Mr Redman studied agriculture at the University of Western Australia before venturing into agricultural education.

Despite attempts to be counselled away from the teaching profession, ironically by his teacher father, Mr Redman ventured into agricultural education, serving as principal of Denmark Agricultural College for 10 years.

Following that, he went into small business with his wife, owning a travel agency and liquor store.

But it was his passion for agriculture and regional WA that drove him towards politics, and in 2004 he joined the Liberal Party.

Just a few months later, Mr Redman was asked to stand for the Nationals, an offer he took up, spending his first term in parliament with the Nationals.

"Opposition was a good sounding ground, it makes you hungry, and you've got to be hungry in politics," he said.

At that time, part of Mr Redman's focus was on country education and health causes.

But it was his work in two key policy areas - biofuels and the grocery market - that had the most impact.

Concerned with the major supermarket chains' market domination and its effect on WA producers, Mr Redman helped compile the report that prompted the Carpenter government's Buy West East Best program, introduced earlier this year.

"The aim of the program was to encourage the development of local produce through the promotion of WA-branded product," Mr Redman said.

"We wanted a strong independent sector and strong grower sector, supporting WA product."

Mr Redman was also one of the driving forces behind the state government's taskforce to investigate the viability of a local biofuels industry.

He undertook extensive research on the sector, travelling to Queensland to speak to his interstate counterparts about ethanol production.

The taskforce has since released its draft report publicly, but has now gone back to do further studies on the full life-cycle analysis of biofuels in regards to its overall carbon footprint and economic viability.

Mr Redman sees a future for biofuels in WA, despite the financial problems currently facing most producers.

Mr Redman has also made his views on another hot-button topic - GM crops - known, believing there is a role for technology in the farming sector.

He said trials of both GM cotton and canola could proceed in WA, but with caution and care to maintain segregation from non-GM areas.

"We need to move forward in a considered and careful way."


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