May 4, 2018
The State Government says it has delivered on a major election commitment, but the LNP and agri-political groups are seething following the late-night passing of vegetation management laws in State Parliament on Thursday.
Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the changes were “based on science” and and “pivotal to protecting the State’s precious resources”.
“High-value regrowth vegetation that has not been cleared for 15 years, and is part of an ‘endangered’ or at risk regional ecosystem vegetation, will now be protected,” Dr Lynham said.
“This reform, combined with better mapping and support for landholders, will result in the protection of 862,506ha of high value regrowth vegetation.”
But Opposition Leader and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington said the “unjust” laws would devastate Queensland farmers and destroy desperately needed jobs in the bush.
She said it was a disgrace that the Labor Government had “abused their numbers and rammed their vegetation management laws through Parliament”.
“This arrogant Labor Government silenced the voice of our farmers and rural and regional Queensland,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“To deny Members of Parliament the opportunity to speak freely on these controversial laws underlines how little Labor cares for farmers.
“They even broke their own new ‘family friendly’ sitting hours to pass these very ‘farmer unfriendly’ laws.
“Labor didn’t listen to farmers and they didn’t listen to Members of Parliament.
“By gagging debate on these laws, Annastacia Palaszczuk showed she couldn’t care less about Queensland farming families and rural communities.”
Ms Frecklington said debate on Labor’s controversial laws should have been allowed to continue at the next sitting of Queensland Parliament.
“All (Annastacia Palaszczuk) cares about is sweeping up green preferences in inner-Brisbane electorates,” she said.
“Farmers are the custodians of our land, but this Premier thinks they are criminals.”
Earlier, Mrs Frecklington had called on the Labor Government to hear the voices of the hundreds of farmers who gathered outside Parliament House on Tuesday to protest the changes.
“These laws reduce farmers to criminals on their own land by reactivating and giving more power to Labor’s dreaded tree police,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“I would really like to applaud all the primary producers right across Queensland and here in the Nanango Electorate who put so much time into fighting these changes.
“From the producers who travelled to Brisbane for the rally, to those who held virtual rallies and took to social media to spread the word.”
AgForce described the passing of the legislation “as a dark day for Queensland agriculture”.
A statement by the rural lobby group said new agricultural development opportunities had been shut down and sustainable food and fibre production would be more complex and costly.
AgForce General President Grant Maudsley said the impact of the laws would be felt far beyond the farm gate.
“Farmers love and care for their land and only manage vegetation to sustainably produce the great food and fibre that consumers in Australia and overseas demand,” he said.
“These laws are the worst of both worlds. The changes make it harder for farmers to grow food and deliver worse not better environmental outcomes.
“It’s a real kick in the guts for the next generation of farmers who want to expand and grow their businesses but have now had their futures stolen away from them.
“One thing is for sure – this is not over. This is the beginning, not the end.
“Farming families have shown they can and will get much more active in explaining what they do, calling out misinformation and sharing stories of what life on the land is really like.
“The Palaszczuk Government ignores at their peril the tsunami of support farmers are receiving from people of all walks of life from all over Queensland – city and country.”
Mr Maudsley said AgForce had always maintained a willingness to take part in a science and evidence-based approach that looked at all the facts, including how much vegetation has grown, not just how much has been cleared.
“Vegetation management has been divisive for two decades and the Palaszczuk Government had an opportunity to develop a long-lasting solution, but they squandered it and rammed through flawed laws that just guarantee the political ping-pong will continue,” he said.
“We’re not going to cop this. We’re going to keep fighting until we get fair and balanced laws that deliver good outcomes for agriculture and the environment without strangling farmers in red tape.
“It’s pretty simple – if farmers can’t feed their own families, they can’t feed yours. We’re all in this together, we all eat food, we all wear clothes, and we all care for the environment.”
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation said its members were feeling frustrated and disappointed.
QFF President Stuart Armitage said despite the LNP “putting forward reasonable amendments, the Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 has been enacted into law without changes”.
“Longer term, these laws will have a devastating effect on Queensland’s agricultural sector and its reliant regional communities, and they are not the stable solution that we need,” Mr Armitage said.
“Farmers do not deserve to be the collateral damage of an election promise which has now become a vexed issue. The debate around these laws needs to mature and a proper process must be conducted.
“With the inevitable political theatre now out of the way, let’s hope there is an opportunity for a more rational discussion.
“QFF and members have been calling for this for years, and we remain willing participants.
“A sustainable solution will only be reached through an inclusive, transparent and independent process that is based on the full picture of science and evidence.”
Prior to the passing of the legislation, Mrs Frecklington spoke passionately in Parliament about how the new legislation would hurt primary producers.
She raised the case of a Gordonbrook grazier, the late Alan Crawford.
“I was proud to be a member of the LNP government that helped restore balance to the vegetation management laws,” Mrs Frecklington said.“In 2013 I stood in this House and I spoke about Mr Alan Crawford.
“I dealt with Mr Crawford when I was a lawyer in Kingaroy. He continued to talk to me after he fell foul of another Labor Government’s obsession with farmer bashing in the Vegetation Management Act 1999.”
Back then, Mrs Frecklington explained that Mr Crawford had been taken to court and fined for land clearing.
“He has been managing his vegetation since the 1960s and believes he has the greenest, thickest trees in Queensland.
“He cleared trees on his property which had previously been cleared prior to 1963 but, unfortunately, was rezoned as remnant,” she said at the time.
“He has suffered hugely, not only from the significant impost but also he says that during the two years that it took to go through the courts he lacked sleep and it has taken 10 years off his life.”
Mrs Frecklington repeated this week: “He told me at the time, ‘This has taken 10 years off my life.’
“Sadly, Mr Crawford passed away two days ago. I would like to send my heartfelt condolences to his family — to Val, their family and friends — and thank them for standing up to these draconian laws after they were at the front line.”
According to the State Government, the key changes to vegetation management laws include: