May 17, 2024 10:00 PM
Libby Mettam
WA Liberal Leader

Last year Western Australia tried to amplify its presence in Canberra with the establishment of a new embassy by the State Government.

Its single aim was to ensure “Team WA” remained a prominent consideration in the national capital’s decision-making process.

The embassy was intended to ensure WA’s priorities and needs came to the attention of east coast policy makers.

At the time, Premier Roger Cook gloated: “It’s a key part of my Government’s commitment to ensuring WA’s voice is heard loud and clear in Canberra, and always doing what’s right for WA.”

This decision, costing taxpayers $300,000 a year, would appear to have stumbled at the first hurdle.

In fact, you could say it’s been an abject failure in protecting the interests of our farming community.

Farmers in WA have long been exemplars of resilience, weathering the harshest of climates, navigating fluctuating markets and adapting to endless regulatory changes.

Their unwavering determination has allowed them to thrive despite droughts, biosecurity threats, and burdensome regulation.

However, the Albanese Government’s decision to end the live sheep trade, and their paltry $107 million transition funding package, marks a tipping point for the industry.

While Roger Cook pretends to support WA farmers, feigning outrage and disbelief to journalists over Canberra’s decision to ban the live sheep trade, behind the scenes he remains supportive of a Prime Minister from the same left-leaning Labor faction. Unfortunately, this politically and ideologically driven move, devoid of any scientific backing, threatens to dismantle the very foundation of WA farmers’ livelihoods.

It is a demonstration of the power of Labor’s far left, which is advocating West Australians stop eating red meat and instead get their protein from tofu, insects and algae.

This Government and its ideologues have no regard to the impact on WA’s regional economy, or the tens of thousands of West Australians who work throughout the sheep industry supply chain.

For many WA farmers, this ban is the final straw, undermining their capacity to sustain their operations and eroding the hope and stability that have been cornerstones of their enduring spirit. A third-generation WA farmer, who I know has written to the Premier, says this is a nightmare which will gut the entire WA sheep industry.

She describes the prospect of having to put down her prime newborn lambs because the market has been cut from beneath her business.

“I am not sure if you can comprehend how sickening this concept is,” she wrote.

She doubts any of her three children will continue farming when they grow up because of the impact of this ban.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, signed last September by nearly two dozen farmer and livestock groups, including WA Farmers, the Pastoralist and Graziers Association, and Sheep Producers Australia, warned Labor’s decision to ban live sheep exports “will cause harm”.

Farming groups say the ban will have a ripple effect through the entire sector because most farms rely on a mix of crops and livestock to mitigate the risks associated with single commodity farming.

It will hurt Australian families and damage Australia’s international standing as a reliable supplier of food and fibre and a trusted trading partner.

These groups correctly pointed out the industry has substantially improved its animal welfare standards, and any ban would be an “abject failure”.

Middle Eastern markets would simply purchase sheep elsewhere, a reality based on a letter from Kuwait’s Commerce and Industry Minister, Mazin Saad Al-Nahedh, to Australian Agriculture Minister Murray Watt. The letter said Kuwait had little interest in developing chilled and frozen meat import capacity.

Continuing down this path will lead to a future with no local farms, no local farmers, and a supply chain entirely dependent on produce from interstate or other countries.

One of the key factors setting WA apart from other regions is its commitment to quality.

West Australian producers always strive to maintain the highest standards of excellence.

I want WA to maintain its national and global reputation as a proud producer of high-quality meats, fish, fruits, vegetables and wines.

Most importantly I do not want to see our markets taken away, or our trading partners turning their back on WA because our Premier, and his tokenistic embassy, is not prepared to stand up for WA’s interests.

This is not the future I want for our State, and it is certainly not the future the Liberal Party envisions for WA.

How can we encourage young people to pursue careers in agriculture when their own Government does not support the industry or regional WA?

What confidence are we giving to our farmers when their markets are taken away, or they are suffocated by an endless sea of red tape?

I do not want the next generation of WA children to grow up in a society where fresh, locally sourced produce is a thing of the past.

Our farmers deserve support, not regulation.

That is why we will unapologetically stand up for farmers, continue to fight for regional WA, and ensure every person across this State remembers this simple fact: when WA farmers begged the Premier for help, he turned his back on them.

A Liberal Government I lead will never turn its back on WA farmers.

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