WA Liberal MPs have been openly encouraged by a senator and senior party stalwarts to defy Tony Abbott and support the immediate full deregulation of the wheat industry.
Amid internal rancour about a Nationals plan to retain Wheat Exports Australia, WA Liberals are under pressure to cross the floor to stand up for core party policy.
In a bid to protect Mr Abbott's leadership and preserve coalition unity, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop urged fellow WA Liberals to support a two-year deferral of deregulation, saying WA Nationals MP Tony Crook was doing the same. But Mr Crook's decision on Tuesday to back the Labor Bill was considered a "game-changer".
Several Liberal MPs told _The West Australian _ it was no longer tenable to deny support for abolishing WEA.
Senator Dean Smith said yesterday he remained committed to representing WA farmers by supporting the Government's legislation.
"I encourage my WA colleagues in the Lower House to support full deregulation on the Government's timetable," Senator Smith said.
Former Liberal Party State president Barry Court said MPs owed it to WA to back the Bill. President of the party's Durack division Gordon Thomson was "disappointed in the actions of Federal Liberals" and that there had been no statement from Durack MP Barry Haase. Mr Haase is in New York on a three-month placement with the United Nations and did not return calls.
Ms Bishop said Mr Crook had broken his word and the Liberals would not fall for his "stunt".
"We have a clear plan for transition to full deregulation that addresses concerns for some wheat growers on access to ports and the supply chain," she said.
Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said if WEA was not abolished before this harvest, the coalition would be "sentencing" growers to another year of regulatory burden, including a 22¢ a tonne export levy.