Opinion: Land clearing – putting the cart before the horse?

Charles Nason, 24/11/2017

The following opinion piece has been submitted by Roma district cattle producer Charles Nason


Charles Nason, Banoona, Roma

Land clearing has become a very  emotional issue, almost an article of faith (a church) and has thus become polarised with very little common ground or common sense.

Why has it become so? What was the reason for it?

To some it is to save the planet. One of the major drivers of the apocalyptic climate models is the warming effect of CO2. However this is based on the work of Arrhenius in the 1890’s which some say is speculative science only and has never been adequately quantified. Climate change  models are very sensitive to this input and it thus urgently needs to be reviewed as it may well be overstated.

There is an old saying “correlation does not prove causation” . It well may be that global warming has enabled industrialisation rather than vice versa as more food can be grown in warm times and allowed more people in the cities.

Others say it is to provide  biodiversity. If so, this will be at the expense of the grassland and open savannah fluffies and furries? Why is one lot valued more highly than the others? What biodiversity do we really want?

The Grain and Graze 1 national biodiversity project found good biodiversity in cropping country even in a very dry time. It was not a barren landscape as some have suggested.

My observations of the “remnant” communities are that too many are incorrectly described and are also heavily dominated by a very recent young  understorey which is called thickening . This is not a traditional “remnant” community but a “politically correct” recent construct.

My grandfather commented in his time that much of our present “bush” was much more open. This is backed up by many recorded and anecdotal observations from the past. If the communities were correctly described, maybe producers might have more faith in the government policy of the day. The so called Pilliga scrub was once open country.

The thickening and encroachment of some species such as cypress pine, gidgee, mulga, sandlewood etc is acknowledged by many of the old scientists who are now “politically incorrect”. There were even inquiries on these concerns over 100 years ago. The indigenous inhabitants used fire to manipulate their landscape for their purposes. The present philosophy seems to be to leave it alone and it will revert to a natural pristine state – pigs fly occasionally too?

We need to re-introduce fire (and other modes of)  management into the landscape except in too many cases the community is probably too far gone and mechanical intervention will be needed. Or we wait for the extreme fires which take out entire communities to everyone’s loss. California 50 years ago led the world in understanding that regular fires were required to avoid the occasional catastrophic fires which resulted from the build up of flammable material. Why did they forget this knowledge and suffer these catastrophic fires again?

Why do farmers and graziers “clear” country? The other side never seems to ask this obvious question. The simple reason is that timbered country is not very productive and those (including myself) who had (or unfortunately still have) a “green” block know only too well its low productivity (and thus profitability) and the dramatic amplified effect of drought in a dry time. It is simply very good commercial sense to remove much of the trees when they impact so severely on the bottom line. It is very expensive to clear timber and it is a decision not taken lightly and maybe the recent “increase” is simply a catch up from the previous unprofitable period in the beef industry when essential maintenance was unfortunately dramatically reduced. In many cases it is simply to reduce and control regrowth.

Even the so called environmental weed called “buffel grass”  has vastly improved beef productivity. One survey in the Maranoa simply said that those who had it were viable, those who did not were not. Buffel seems to have a much larger portion of its biomass underground. It is probably sequestering much more carbon than a mature forest which can even be a net emitter?

To conserve something, you need to create value for it. Timber has little value for most farmers. If the community wants more timber, the hip pocket nerve is the most effective – legislation is the worst.

One of the issues in this State election is “land clearing”. Agriculture is the major economic driver of many rural communities , anything that compromises this economically disadvantages our state and country.

If this tree clearing issue is not resolved, agricultural productivity will decline and rural communities who are ultimately underpinned by the fortunes of agriculture will continue to decline. This will flow on and impact on the wider economy. A nation needs to be able to feed itself. We supposedly export much food but we also import much. Our net position is thus much less than we realise A landscape needs to provide for the needs (productive, economic, environmental, social and cultural) of its population. Europe sees farmers as part of the landscape, Australia appears to want them out of the landscape!

We urgently need a sophisticated,  strategic, constructive, bi-partisan conversation re the landscape to provide for our future needs, not a polarised argument about tree clearing.


Charles Nason

“Banoona” Roma


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  1. Will Robinson, 28/11/2017

    To give up on The Australian Judiciary for not being indepedent of the Legislature is rather sad – but may even be endorsing that situation. The missing ingredient may well be a unity of purpose or determined leadership amongst the persecuted to vigorously demand rural social justice from Canberra?

  2. Bob McClelland, 28/11/2017

    I agree with you Charles, however Andrew Walsh is correct, we must involve the mainstream media as well. We continue to to talk to the converted through rural media but the message is lost politically if it does not reach the city. The same happened with the live export fiasco.

  3. Rod Dunbar, 27/11/2017

    Will Robinson; legal action through the Court system (class action) will achieve nothing – the Courts and the parliament(s) are one and the same (see The Political High Court by David Soloman); the separation of powers is extinct.
    What is needed is a new Political movement to stand and fight for our rights, but the bush and agriculture needs more oppression before they pursue that radical action.

    Benjamin Franklin;
    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
    I vote for LIBERTY!”

  4. Will Robinson, 27/11/2017

    I have not travelled to the Middle East but am reliably informed that there are very stark differences between agriculture in Israel and agriculture in Palestine? Thus it may well be a matter of choice and management? Will professional Australian agriculturalists be allowed to create a sea of green (Israel) – or will Canberra act on instruction from the UN to create a 1900 million acre National Park. It may require a class action by agriculturalists rather than a coup.

  5. Rod Dunbar, 27/11/2017

    Whilst I do agree with your opinion Charles, I do believe that era has gone and gone permanently. The system of government we have evolved into will never allow tree clearing, and farming decisions to be made by the individual farmer. The federal government must be in control and directing all activities including our lives.
    I think that if we as a nation were now to consider for example the Murray/Darling and Brigalow Belt schemes they would never be implemented; the development simply would not occur.
    The development of the North as is being touted is a joke, it will never proceed. For a start there is no security of tenure; there is no likelihood of that changing whilst the States and Territory jealously guard their stranglehold on State owned land; even freehold now is not Real Property and does not contain all the incidence of Title that exists in English common law, it just a form of State leasehold.
    Did you know that Agenda 21, the action plan of the United Nations for sustainable development worldwide has Australia shown as a National Park with no farming or agricultural activates at all?

  6. Will Robinson, 26/11/2017

    Global scientific evidence indicates that Mr. Nason is correct where he has identified political emotion as the problem! Vast areas of Africa are climatic climax scrub or woodland – but are also fire climax grassland. The removal of fire combined with the addition of sheep and cattle is good for bush encroachment but not so good for grass. Political interference in agriculture and the environment can create spectacular disasters. Malcolm Fraser and Robert Mugabe were running a truly fantastic experiment in Zimbabwe for the last 38 years until even the army had had enough of being hungry! The sad part is that the people on the land will pay the price – whilst politicians will probably get state funerals. Mugabe got a $10 million exit package, but I do not know what Fraser got for his efforts?

  7. Paul Franks, 25/11/2017

    Labor’s proposed tree laws are pretty tame compared to their proposed reef regulation laws where there will be laws in place forcing government mandated stocking rates onto your property.

    A scary read all beef producers should be aware of http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/assets/documents/reef/enhancing-reef-protection-regulations-ris-summary.pdf

  8. Andrew walsh, 25/11/2017

    Well said and a very well written piece Charles – but now see how far it goes from Beef Central as I recon 99.99% here would agree, it’s the 99% outside that need to read and understand!! Good luck with that, but we must keep swinging.

  9. Michael J. Vail, 24/11/2017

    A promise made to the Greens Party in Queensland, by Labour; to secure preferences, and based on spurious ‘evidence’, and falsely represented statistics. A solution, in search of a problem … IMO

  10. Madonna connolly, 24/11/2017

    so well said, wonderful to have people of your caliber giving the true facts. Sadly those so greedy for power don’t have the brains to comphrend your knowledge of the true facts. There are going to be a lot of hungry people in the not too distant future.

  11. John Richard, 24/11/2017

    Great article with very correct observations.
    There are more trees now than when white settlers arrived.
    Much open grassland is now unproductive woody weeds.
    I can confirm the assessment of pilliga being grassland. Now pine wasteland National Park. Much western Darling River grasslands has the same fate.
    More balance is needed. Older citizens have much wisdom and practical experience in caring for country they love.
    Little experience is gained in an office or university.

  12. Danny Gleeson, 24/11/2017

    Congratulations Charles on a very common sense article,but I think what you have said might make to much sense for the red and green shirts to comprehend.

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