By Chris Thomson | posted on July 12, 2018
A HEATED exchange over live exports between Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Agricultural Region MLC Rick Mazza has seen the chair of a Parliamentary committee call the pair to order.
Proceedings of the usually sombre Standing Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations commenced cordially enough on June 21 when the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MLC asked Ms MacTiernan what she had done to establish global markets for Western Australian farmers.
Ms MacTiernan said the big challenge in the export of grain, which constituted 80 per cent of WA’s agricultural exports, was competition from the Black Sea and Argentina.
“Whilst at this stage this increasing production from Argentina and the Black Sea is focusing on the lower end of the value chain in grain, we are aware that the Russians and the South Americans are very capable people; they will be doing the R&D and they will be improving their grain over time,” she said.
“A very important initiative of ours is that we have increased funding for grains research by $24 million this year.
“We have reoriented the Northern Beef Futures Program.”
Mr Mazza said he understood WA had a very good year in 2017, producing just over 16 million tonnes of grain.
“My understanding is that the Black Sea produced over 100 million tonnes, a significant amount more than us,” he explained.
“There has been a lot of media commentary around the fact that the live export controversy is going to affect our grain market.
“What is the Minister doing about making sure that we continue to have markets for our grain in Western Australia?”
Ms MacTiernan said the overwhelming market for grain was an export one.
“In terms of the live export industry, I want to make this point: I know that the member has been saying things like I have destabilised the live export industry.
“The live export indus- try has been destabilised by poorly performing exporters.
“It has been destabilised by a Federal Government that over the last five or six years has refused to enforce its own regulations, and that is what has —”
Mr Mazza interjected.
“Come on, Minister,” he said.
“Your rhetoric around live export is what has caused the market to fall.”
Ms MacTiernan hit back, saying Mr Mazza had asked her about live export.
“That is nonsense,” Mr Mazza retorted.
“What we are trying to do is ensure –” Ms MacTiernan began explaining before committee Chair, her Labor colleague, Alanna Clohesy called “Order!”.
One Nation MLC for South West Colin Tincknell chimed in, claiming Ms MacTiernan was avoiding Mr Mazza’s question.
“Thank you, Honourable Member,” Ms Clohesy said.
“I will chair this hearing.
“Minister, if you could keep your answer—I understand the member mentioned live export; the question was related to wheat exports.”
Ms MacTiernan explained she was trying to understand the connection between live export and wheat.
“Yes, I am too,” Ms Clohesy confided.
“Perhaps we could move on to a new question.”
Ms MacTiernan tried to make a point before Ms Clohesy again intervened.
“Minister! Order!” she exclaimed, twice.
“I am inviting the Member to move on to a different question so that we can keep the flow of the hearing happening.”