IN THE NEWS: New Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie puts WA into early plans

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IN THE NEWS: On MAY 31, 2019

Newly installed Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie has vowed to take a tough stance against extreme animal activists, and says she's committed to a sustainable and prosperous live sheep export trade.

Senator McKenzie also told WestBusiness she plans to visit WA within four weeks, where she will meet all commodity groups, including the fishing and rock lobster industries, along with advocacy groups WAFarmers and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association.

The deputy Nationals leader was named Australia's first female agriculture minister at the weekend, albeit with reduced responsibilities compared with her predecessor David Littleproud, who retains the water resources portfolio.

Senator McKenzie said extreme vegan activism such as farm invasions was the top issue when she visited WA during the election campaign, which included meetings with the Sheep Collective industry group.

"A priority, when we come back in the sitting weeks, is to pass the legislation that would see up to 12 months jail for individuals who incite others online to conduct themselves in a terrible way," she said. "That's one of the things I want to see done very quickly."

She said though the Commonwealth could toughen online laws, it was also necessary for all State Governments to examine their trespass laws to see what measures they could take.

In WA, Attorney-General John Quigley is proposing a new aggravated trespass charge which doubles the maximum penalties for trespass to $24,000 and two years imprisonment.

On live sheep exports, Senator McKenzie said she wanted to see a sustainable and prosperous live trade, acknowledging it contributed to the employment of 6000 West Australians.

Still awaiting the final report into heat stress methodology for shipments, Senator McKenzie promised her decision-making would be based on science.

"For everyone to have confidence in the regulatory environment we adopt, we need to focus on the science and make sure it is robust. I won't be reacting to emotive arguments," she said.

"I have regularly met with live exporters when I've been in WA over the last few years and will be doing so again on the next visit and I plan to have a tour on a ship at the earliest possible opportunity.

"I want to get the balance right so the trade can continue."

Increased market access is also high on the agenda.

"That's one of the areas where we can really make a difference for our ag industry," she said.

"I want to see agriculture as a $100 billion industry by 2030, so there's a lot of work to do."

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