By WAFarmers President Tony York
This year, WAFarmers has continued to work towards creating a more viable, profitable and sustainable future for the agricultural industry by developing stronger relationships with our members, government and industry stakeholders and building on our already strong advocacy foundations.
There have been numerous successes achieved throughout the year of which WAFarmers, its staff and the members we represent should be proud. The WAFarmers team has continued to work exceptionally hard in the policy and advocacy sphere over the past year, and has worked cooperatively with all stakeholders to ensure that members’ concerns are vocalised. State-based issues such as the repeal of the GM Bill, first and last-mile road arrangements, small and medium business taxation, the Wild Dog Action Plan, chemical exemptions and labelling, and the instability surrounding the leadership of the Agriculture and Food portfolio have been high priorities this year. We are pleased to finish the year with a strong advocate for the sector in Minister Mark Lewis.
In addition to state issues, the Federal Election in the July also saw WAFarmers actively campaign on federal issues affecting Western Australian agriculture, including the backpacker tax which was finally passed at a rate of 15 per cent on the last sitting day for Parliament of 2016, telecommunications and internet access, research and development, streamlining of legislation to increase efficiency and reduce red tape, and optimising trade opportunities. The State Election in March will offer another opportunity to highlight the issues most important to our members, and get the State Government to build on its commitment to agricultural funding.
Our 2016 Annual Conference was one of the most well-attended in our history with a number of significant milestones, including a panel discussion with Minderoo Group Chairman Andrew Forrest, an address from Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Senator Anne Ruston, and the retirement of Dale Park as WAFarmers President after four fruitful years. The third annual Heart of WA Gala Dinner was also, once again, a huge success. It is always gratifying to demonstrate the vibrancy and enthusiasm of our industry.
From a business perspective, we have worked in line with Project Re-charge, Re-connect, which has seen WAFarmers continue to grow. One of our greatest achievements over the last 12 months has been the continuation of our plan to re-build our policy platform and re-connect with all levels of politics and politicians, from Local Government through to Federal Government. As a result of a new approach to the way we advocate and compete for media attention, we have re-opened doors at all levels of government and with all parties, and are regularly the first port of call for a position on agricultural issues. Our financial performance this year has also been pleasing, considering we added significant costs during 2016 with the appointment of a third full time Policy Executive Officer and a Membership Coordinator, both of which have been integral to the success of the organisation this year.
The culmination of all this hard work has seen a level of interest and participation on the Board and Commodity Councils, in the Zones and in AgConnectWA that has not been seen for many years. I am aware of increased interest in Board and Council positions, so the upcoming AGMs at Annual Conference will be very interesting.
I would like to thank the WAFarmers staff and elected representatives, all of whom continue to work tirelessly to better our industry. We recently determined that all the work we have done this year has saved the average WA farmer – whether a WAFarmers Member or not – a massive $30,000. This is a testament to the hard work our staff and elected representatives put in each and every day, and I congratulate them on their outstanding efforts this year.
I also thank our members and our sponsors for their ongoing support – without you, WAFarmers could not carry out the exceptionally important work that it does.
We wish everyone a safe and happy Christmas and new year, and a prosperous harvest. We look forward to working with you and representing your interests in 2017, and for many years to come.