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Opinion: Labor veg management push underlines need for united ag sector

Grant Maudsley, AgForce General President, 22/01/2015

Just days after Federal Labor MPs and Senators held a country caucus meeting to develop strategies to help the Party “win back the bush”, Queensland Labor party leader Anastasia Palaszczuk has  announced plans to reintroduce the former State Labor government’s vegetation management regulations. AgForce Queensland general president Grant Maudsley says the move is a reminder that the regulatory environment change on a whim, and underlines why a united industry is so crucial.

 

AgForce president Gant Maudsley.

AgForce president Gant Maudsley.

ALP state leader Annastacia Palaszczuk’s announcement she would repeal changes to the Vegetation Management Act serves as a timely reminder laws critical to agricultural prosperity can change at the whim of the government of the day.

The amendments to the Act, introduced in 2013 by the LNP government after strong advocacy from AgForce Queensland, have made way for landholders to perform low-risk essential farm activities, such as fencing and weed control, and removed wait times of up to nine years for simple approvals.  The reforms have not jeopardised environmental health, but most certainly have removed layers of costly, cumbersome and outdated regulation from the day-to-day management of rural properties.

It is difficult to not interpret Ms Palaszczuk’s announcement as a bid to secure the support of the environmental lobby, green groups, fringe parties and political independents this election.  It was almost certainly also designed to appeal to the sensibilities of the urban voter unaware of the negligible impact repeal of this legislation would have on environmental protection.  Furthermore, it raises questions as to what additional changes a Labor government would make to policies pertinent to primary production if in government – be this after 31 January or in three or six years’ time.

Of course, we cannot say this only of Ms Palaszczuk and her party.  Governments of all political persuasions have capacity to create policy and implement legislation designed to secure votes and maintain power.  It would be foolish and naïve to believe any party would ever meet the entirety of policy requirements of our industry and would not, at times, make decisions we view as counter to what is in the best interest of profitable primary production.

All of this clearly demonstrates the fundamental need for producers and industry stakeholders to work collaboratively and to support industry leaders in advocacy efforts.

A united industry is our strongest strategy to move agriculture beyond the regulation quagmire, to influence policy decisions and to achieve on-ground outcomes for production, the environment and the economy.

This cohesive approach is also the best way we can tell the ‘good news story’ of what we do to the broader community – the support of the city voter can only further strengthen our influence in the cabinet room.

In just more than a week, Queensland will entrust its next three years to a government which will come under pressure to meet the needs of many and varied industries and interest groups while maintaining constituent support.

Regardless of the result, the most prudent thing we as primary producers can do is to work together to support our industry groups, to prepare for future policy challenges and to ensure agriculture is heard amid the white noise of politicking.

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