A row has erupted between Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke and the Queensland Government over the latter's plans to open recently gazetted conservation reserves to cattle for emergency agistment.
Mr Burke has opposed the plan to allow starving cattle from drought affected northern properties into conservation reserves and national parks, telling The Australian newspaper yesterday he had no interest in helping the Queensland Government "wreck" conservation areas.
Mr Burke told the newspaper that any move by Queensland to run cattle on conservation reserves – many of which were former beef properties bought jointly by the state and the commonwealth – would amount to a "complete breach of trust".
"The land was purchased for conservation purposes," he said. "Queensland knew this and accepted the money on that basis. It would be a fundamental breach of trust at every level to then use that land for purposes other than conservation."
In response to his comments, Queensland's deputy premier Jeff Seeney released a statement this morning calling on Mr Burke to visit north-west Queensland to see for himself the problem that was confronting desperate graziers.
“Tens of thousands of cattle are starving. This is a dire animal welfare situation. Mr Burke and the Federal Labor Government must support every effort to help,” Mr Seeney said.
“Tony Burke needs to relent. His opposition to our decision is outrageous. For the sake of graziers, their families, and their livestock he must relent and I call on him to do so.
“Mr Burke and the Gillard Government must rid themselves of their captivity to the radical Greens agenda and realise the immensity of the problem facing cattlemen across Queensland’s far north and west.
“They have offered no solutions and they are, in part, a cause of the problem through their disastrous decision to shut down the live export trade.
“Our decision to open up parks and reserve properties is a common sense solution for some of the affected graziers and their stock.
“The properties we are opening up are not pristine national parks.
“They have, in fact, been used for grazing purposes – in some cases for more than a century – before being purchased for environmental protection.
“We are proposing a temporary measure, a practical solution, to a huge animal welfare issue.
“To deny graziers this option would be cruel and heartless.
“Have a heart Mr Burke. Reverse your opposition to Queensland’s proposal.”
Mr Seeney said Queensland would proceed to open up the appropriate reserve properties and national parks despite the Federal Government’s opposition.
“We hope that common sense will eventually prevail in Canberra,” he said.
“It is unthinkable that a Federal Minister could be so irresponsible as to let thousands of cattle die when this option is available to help some of these drought stricken graziers.”
Federal agriculture minister Joe Ludwig yesterday urged Queensland to sign on to Canberra's new Farm Finance Package to free up $60 million in concessional loans and "provide real support" to graziers, according to The Australian.
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