A victory for common sense is how rural groups have the greeted the defeat of the Queensland Government’s controversial tree clearing crackdown in a parliamentary vote late last night.
Former Labor, now independent, MP Billy Gordon voted with the LNP and the two Katter’s Australian Party MPs last night to block the Labor Government’s proposed bill by 44 votes to 42.
AgForce said the proposed laws would have driven up food prices, stifled regional development and cost jobs, and were opposed by farmers, indigenous groups, the mining industry, the property industry, lawyers and many others.
The Palaszczuk Government now had an opportunity to step back and develop a bipartisan, workable vegetation management policy that could stand the test of time, AgForce General President Grant Maudsley said.
‘good policy can overcome bad politics’
“This vote is a victory for common sense. It shows that good policy can overcome bad politics,” Mr Maudsley said.
“We thank the Opposition, the Katter Party and the Member for Cook Billy Gordon for standing up for good policy by voting against these laws.
“The reality is farmers care about the environment.
‘We live and work in every day, and we manage vegetation so we can provide food for Australian and overseas consumers.
“AgForce has always said we are willing to work through a science and evidence based process, but the Queensland Government has been more interested in green politics than developing good policies.
“All we have been asking for is fair laws for farmers so we can grow our businesses to produce more food and create more jobs for Queenslanders.”
Mr Maudsley thanked the many hundreds of farmers who became involved in the debate by giving evidence at Parliament committee hearings, taking part in protest rallies, telling their personal stories to the media or getting the message out via social media.
“Since 1999, farmers have borne the brunt of 38 amendments to vegetation laws, with the vast majority of the changes made on the back of political promises not environmental logic,” he said.
“Let’s hope now that everyone can take a breath, we can step back and come up with a process that will lead to laws that have bi-partisan support, that stand the test of time and provide certainty to landholders.
“Agriculture is one of the foundations of the Queensland economy and could grow from $17 billion a year to $30 billion a year over the next decade, but only if we have sensible land management laws.”
Property Rights Australia Chairman, Dale Stiller said land custodians and food producers from the tip of Cape York to the southern border had had reason to celebrate a victory over what he termed a “very dirty campaign” waged by Queensland government Ministers, Jackie Trad and Steven Miles.
“Queenslanders and particularly those off the land are frustrated by the lack of honesty in this State,” Mr Stiller said.
“Unethical interpretation of facts is expected from some green groups, intent on seeking absolute control and attracting funding for their campaigns, having abandoned practical on ground conservation; but governments are supposed to represent all citizens.
“This Palaszczuk ALP government has been undignified in misrepresenting the data, misleading people, fabricating emotional alarm, ignoring good land management practices and denigrating food producers and land custodians.”
He said it should be a matter of astonishment to all Queenslanders that the Deputy Premier, Jackie Trad, suggested it was a virtue to strip away important and established legal protections for landholders.
“Her proposal to introduce legislation that could penalise farmers as guilty until proven innocent would have had detrimental flow on effects for all Queenslanders,” Mr Stiller said.
“The member for Cook, Billy Gordon, recognised the shallowness of the government’s promise to review the Cape York Heritage Act to secure his vote.
However he warned that while the Palaszczuk government had failed in its bid to change legislation, it could still at any time change what was left in regulation.
“Already there are no new High Value Agriculture permits being issued with the government having changed the guidelines in the State Development Assessment Provisions.
“The changes in the SDAP included previously prohibiting clearing within set distances from watercourses to drainage features. This means any hollow depression or channel capable of carrying water.
“The self-assessable codes may have been retained in the legislation but the guidelines in the regulation are in the process of being tightened. First off the rank is the code for thickening vegetation with the consultation draft revealing that the government will leave it available in name only having made thinning near impossible to comply with and at great economic cost.
“Importantly the failure of this Bill has shown that people living in regional Queensland are not completely helpless and that is the sweetest victory to come from this campaign.
“If we stand up strongly but patiently, clearly articulate a message and stick to the facts we do win the hearts and minds of the majority of the population.
“PRA wishes to congratulate the Cape York Land Council, Agforce, QFF, the Qld Law Society, PRA’s network of legal specialists and scientists and the PRA members.
“This win demonstrates that on matters that demand a position of principle to be taken, that we all need to stand strong and not yield or try to appease environmental extremism or politicians seeking votes based on lies.”
Mr Stiller said farmers rated high on the list of the most trusted professions in surveys of the general Australian public.
“Farmers need these very same people to say to the politicians that treating farmers as grossly unworthy of trust is exceedingly unfair. Farmers and all land custodians need to continue to talk to the people in urban areas and explain that we are responsible land managers and demonstrate and promote good land management practices.”
The Palasczcuk Government was yet to release a public statement on the defeat of its proposed legislation at the time this article was published on Friday.
Source: Agforce, Property Rights Australia