Coalition wheat row escalates
Coalition wheat row escalates

WA Federal Liberals will only stand up for the State's wheat growers if Tony Crook does first, after the party secretly delegated its stance on industry deregulation to the WA Nationals.

The Weekend West can reveal that WA Liberals, who reluctantly dumped their support for Labor's full deregulation of the wheat export market to preserve coalition unity and Tony Abbott's leadership, will tear up that commitment if Mr Crook sides with the Government. Multiple Liberal Party sources have confirmed that Deputy Opposition leader Julie Bishop conceded to WA colleagues it would be untenable to maintain their stance if Mr Crook sided with the majority view of State wheat growers.

The political stand-off has left many WA Liberals seething, with one angrily lamenting it had effectively outsourced core party policy to an "agrarian socialist".

Ms Bishop has attempted to calm anxieties by asserting she had been "assured" by Mr Crook personally on September 13 that he would support a National Party amendment to defer the abolition of the Wheat Export Authority for two years.

But Mr Crook told _The Weekend West _: "That is not quite my recollection of the conversation with Julie. We focused more on the fact that the Government was not prepared to bring a Bill forward when they didn't have the support of the crossbenchers that gave them power."

Mr Crook said he would consider the Bill if NSW independent Tony Windsor came up with amendments from his talks with Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig. Ms Bishop said last night the party's position was unanimous.

A Liberal source said Mr Crook would be "signing his political death warrant" if he did not support the full deregulation of the wheat industry, given the growers of O'Connor overwhelmingly backed it and Liberal candidate Rick Wilson was former chairman of PGA Western Graingrowers.

The Liberal Party State council, which meets today at Crown Perth, is expected to reaffirm its support for deregulation, putting sitting MPs and senators under pressure to vote in the State's interests.

Former Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey said it was a disgrace that Ms Bishop had surrendered principled policy to Eastern States farmers.

He called on the council to demand all WA MPs and senators to "show cause" as to why their preselections should not be reopened.

Nationals frontbencher Fiona Nash underscored Liberal fears about re-regulation under a future coalition Government telling the Senate on Thursday: "Getting rid of the single desk for wheat was one of the most stupid decisions a government has ever made".

The West Australian

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