Queensland rural representative group AgForce has accused State premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of turning her back on farmers in the midst of one of the worst-ever droughts.
It follows a Queensland Government announcement on Saturday to reinstate strict vegetation management laws introduced during the Beattie Labor Government and wound back by the Newman LNP Government.
The Palaszczuk Labor Government says land clearing rates nearly doubled in the first two years of the Newman Government, leading to the release of 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in the 2013/14 financial year.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study Report 2012–14 showed that land clearing and related emissions had “increased exponentially” under the previous LNP Government which was why the Palaszczuk Government would introduce new legislation early next year to restrict vegetation clearing.
“As Queenslanders gathered to protest global warming today, the state government has revealed how the LNP’s “do what you like” approach to land clearing pumped thousands of extra tonnes of CO2 into the air,” Ms Trad said in a press release on Saturday.
Ms Trad said the LNP bore responsibility for taking the axe to years of work Labor governments had done to achieve balanced vegetation management.
“They actively encouraged clearing, even before they changed the laws,” she said.
“We acknowledge most landholders are doing the right thing, and looking after their land.
“I’m determined that the action we take will achieve a balance between landholders who are doing the right thing and our waterways and eco-systems, and regional and rural communities
“Landholders have always been able to clear mulga for fodder for livestock, but it’s the other clearing I’m concerned about, particularly other clearing in the Great Barrier Reef catchments.
“If the escalating trend of this other clearing continues, we are increasing carbon emissions and risking land degradation, sedimentation of our waterways, and the Great Barrier Reef.
“Clearing increased from 153,638 hectares in 2011-12 to 296,324 hectares in 2013-14 but what is unforgiveable is the LNP knew about this escalating clearing trend more than a year ago.”
Ms Trad said Andrew Macintosh, the Associate Director of the Australian National University Centre for Climate Law and Policy, had described the Beattie Government’s tree clearing laws to phase out broadscale land clearing and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as “the single most important environmental policy achievement in Australian history”.
“Instead of releasing the 2012-13 report last year, they (the Newman Government) kept it under wraps and we now have the stark reality that clearing and carbon emissions are almost back to the levels they were before the end of broadscale clearing in 2006,” Ms Trad said.
Minister for the Environment, National Parks and Great Barrier Reef, Dr Steven Miles said the government had been listening to landholders, conservation groups, local government and communities across the state on this issue since the election.
Govt turns back on farmers
AgForce General President Grant Maudsley said the Palaszczuk Government was returning to “the Beattie-era lock-down of vegetation management” and would stifle food and fibre production and growing demand for high-quality protein.
“Annastacia Palaszczuk has today shown she is no friend of ag,” Mr Maudsley said.
“Ms Palaszczuk promised to work with farmers when she first became Premier, but has since failed to deliver any certainty and stability, and failed to ensure the promised consultation.
“This Government announced in Parliament on September 16 that they would convene a round table, including AgForce and green groups to discuss vegetation. The green groups refused to attend, and today the Premier has bowed to their pressure.
“The Palaszczuk government went as far as appointing a mediator. Given the government’s announcement, there won’t be much to talk about when the mediator next meets AgForce on Friday.
“With a record drought across 86 per cent of Queensland, now’s the time for the Government to be supporting farmers, not making wild policy changes and deserting farmers.”
Government research showed that more than 97 per cent of farmers are managing their land responsibly and lawfully, Mr Maudsley said.
This is despite tighter restriction than many other industries, such as property development and resource development.
“To blame farmers for carbon emissions on management of less than 0.2 per cent of Queensland is insulting and shows the Premier isn’t focussed on carbon reduction,” Mr Maudsley said.
“This is a knee-jerk action when we need stability and proper data to make a correct decision.
“If a producer is doing the wrong thing we support tough laws to prosecute,” Mr Maudsley said. “In September, green groups accused a landholder near Augathella of clearing his land illegally. It was investigated by the government and shown to be a false claim.”
Mr Maudsley said a recent AgForce report showed that vegetation management is occurring responsibly across Queensland. To view the report, click here.
Source: Queensland Government, AgForce