27/11/2019 - 15:21

Rinehart, MacTiernan go head-to-head

27/11/2019 - 15:21

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Two of WA’s most influential women presented competing views on the role of government at a recent agribusiness forum.

Rinehart, MacTiernan go head-to-head
Alannah MacTiernan says the business sector and government need to work together. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Two of WA’s most influential women presented competing views on the role of government at a recent agribusiness forum.

Gina Rinehart was among friends this week when she called for a “mini G20” to tackle government regulation and taxes.

Speaking at an agribusiness forum in Perth hosted by the Pastoralists & Graziers Association of WA, Mrs Rinehart said governments needed to spend less.

“If high-cost Australia wants to remain internationally competitive and encourage investment … we need our government to cut its onerous, investment-deterring burdens of government tape and taxes,” she said.

The executive chairman of mining giant Hancock Prospecting and pastoral company S. Kidman & Co suggested that industry leaders should get together to map out a path for government.

“We then hold a by invitation, mini G20 for agriculture, an invitation-only event for owners, chairman, CEOs, and any industry related experts we may choose to invite, across our whole industry, to discuss the most important matters relating to Australian agriculture,” she said.

“And then at the end of such a session, release an annual statement of key points.”

Gina Rinehart wants business leaders to push for red tape cuts.

Mrs Rinehart said the priorities should include significant tax cuts and a listing of specific regulations to be cut.

“I’d suggest including the unnecessary shortage of good water in this country,” she said.

Mrs Rinehart cited the experience of the US under President Donald Trump, including lower unemployment and higher wages.

“The proof is there. Cutting tax and government tape truly works,” she said.

“Indeed, last week the NASDAQ, Dow Jones and S&P 500 hit another record high.”

Mrs Rinehart warmed to her theme when she addressed the National Agriculture and Related Industries Day dinner.

“Sitting around in the goat cheese, soy milk latte cafes and bars, are those in the cities, increasingly distancing themselves from those working hard in country areas, and increasingly raising their voices against dams and the very industry that enables them to have fresh produce from a clean-air country,” she said.

She finished up by criticising the “toddle towards a nanny state … where the government controls our lives and businesses more and more”.

While Mrs Rinehart won support from many in the audience, she was taken to task by Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, who has often differed with the PGA.

“This is not about a nanny state, it’s about a truly respectful collaboration between the industry and government,” the minister told the agribusiness forum.

Ms MacTiernan praised farmers for their hard work, innovation and achievements, such as the quadrupling of grain production in WA over the past 30 years despite declining rainfall.

“None of this could be done without a partnership and collaboration with government,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan said R&D within government departments was particularly important, and she was seeking to enhance interaction between researchers and industry groups.

The minister said opportunities for Western Australian farmers lay in quality niches.

“We are never going to become the food bowl of Asia,” she said.

“Recent analysis showed that even if we increased production by 200 per cent, we will only be 1.5 per cent of the Asian market.”

Ms MacTiernan said there were still plenty of opportunities.

“We are going to need very high provenance, and very high traceability,” she said.

“We will need proof that we have strong biosecurity and high animal welfare standards.

“We need a regulatory environment that underpins these industries.

“The notion that we should get rid of all those functions within government just misunderstands where the market is going today.

“The market is wanting assurance about food safety and that requires government authentication.”

Ms MacTiernan cited the recent announcement that citrus canker had been eradicated from the north of WA, about 18 months after it was first detected.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development staff visited more than 13,000 properties across northern WA and removed 1,520 citrus plants.

Industry speakers at the agribusiness forum, including Craig Mostyn Group chief executive Patrick Walsh, agreed on the importance of Australia being a premium producer.

Mr Walsh called for more action to stop the entry of African swine fever, which has decimated the pork industry in China, and the spread of feral pigs.

“The government response has to be better,” he said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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