WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan has brushed off calls for her to be sacked after comments she made about foot-and-mouth disease attracted criticism from O’Connor MP Rick Wilson and Shadow Agriculture Minister Colin de Grussa on Friday.
Mr Wilson called for the Premier to sack the minister on Friday morning over “irresponsible comments” she made in The West Australian that an FMD outbreak in WA could result in lower meat and milk prices for domestic consumers.
“We will still have a domestic industry,” Ms MacTiernan said on Thursday.
“I would not say it would be – catastrophic. It would be costly and very unfortunate. But even if it does happen, we can move beyond it.
“It’s not going to stop milk or meat being available to us. And some people might argue it might actually make it cheaper because there’ll be more of it available domestically.”
Speaking in Albany on Friday, Ms MacTiernan brushed off Mr Wilson’s comments as a “standard response”.
She said her comments were made in response to reports the domestic market would be severely impacted and added that the risk was being treated “extremely seriously”.
“It is unfortunate that those comments have been interpreted (as) something other than they were,” she said.
Ms MacTiernan said she recognised FMD was a real risk but that she was concerned a sense of anxiety was being created for farmers that it would lead to “an absolute decimation of their industry”.
“It will be serious, don’t get me wrong,” she said.
“I don’t want people to think this will be the end of livestock farming in WA.
“We will manage this, we will put huge resources into dealing with this.
“We are trying to keep it out, but if it comes in it will create a disruption, just as COVID created a disruption, but we got through it.
“We’ll get through it because we’ve got a plan and an understanding of what all the implications are.”
Mr Wilson — who is Federal-shadow assistant minister for trade — said on Friday morning Ms MacTiernan’s comments – dismissed the real fears of primary producers.
“Western Australia exports 90 per cent of its processed meat – product and an FMD outbreak in the State would see this industry close down for at least six months,” Mr Wilson said.
“That would be a catastrophe for livestock producers and flippantly claiming that consumers would be the winners is a typically metro-centric view of the world.
“(Ms MacTiernan) has again shown she is incapable of holding the agriculture and food portfolio.
“In reality, an FMD outbreak would be an existential threat to an industry that plays a crucial role in providing high quality food and fibre for Australian and international customers.”
State Shadow Minister for Agriculture Colin de Grussa labelled the comments as “out of touch” and offensive to WA farmers.
“It’s left many wondering if she is up to the job of defending WA’s agriculture sector from the very real threat of FMD,” he said.
“The minister showed a shocking lack of judgement with these comments, which proves her – disconnect from not only primary producers, but regional communities.”
It comes after WAFarmers called for emergency State funding to be made available to bolster border biosecurity measures at a workshop in Mt Barker last week.
Ms MacTiernan drew criticism from Mr Wilson over the fact she did not attend the meeting despite having an electorate office in – Albany.
Ms MacTiernan on Friday said she already had other commitments as minister at the time of the the meeting, but that she was keen to promote broader community awareness of the disease.
“I put it to the (Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt) that there is a case for a broader community awareness that goes beyond just the people that are travelling to Indonesia at this time,” she said.
“I think there is a real – opportunity and need for us to get before the community an enhanced understanding of their responsibility, as community members, in this regard.”