Green Shirts Movement founder Martin Bella (2nd from left) and friends celebrate the formation of the group, which protests against the direction of official agricultural policies (Photo: GSM)

January 31, 2020

A new movement that aims to put rural issues at the centre of Federal, State and local government policy-making will be holding a rally in Kingaroy on Wednesday (February 5).

The Green Shirts Movement (GSM) believes Australian agriculture is slowly being strangled by excessive regulation due to misconceptions about farming practices promoted by extreme environmental groups in urban areas.

The result is that regional and rural Australia is being neglected by governments at all levels, and farmers are being confronted with an avalanche of rules, regulations and paperwork that are choking productivity.

To counter this, GSM says it aims to “tell the truth” about agricultural industries and provide a strong alternative voice in policy debates.

GSM was started in June 2018 by Mackay regional councillor and beef and cane farmer Martin Bella, who is probably better known to most people as a former State Of Origin prop.

In the 18 months since then, the national movement has garnered tens of thousands of social media followers, along with positive coverage in most of the agricultural press.

Locally, GSM clusters are now being formed in the Lockyer Valley and Kingaroy.

The rally on February 5 will be held outside Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington’s electoral office at 36 Alford Street, Kingaroy, at 11:00am.

Local cluster co-ordinator Jim Willmott told the aim of the rally was to register the dissatisfaction many farmers felt about the direction of government policies in recent years.

Jim said GSM was  well aware the LNP were opposed to current vegetation management laws and had other policies designed to  wind back some of the regulatory burden that now faces food and fibre producers.

But they wanted to underline that if reforms occurred, they needed to be much broader than most major political parties might be thinking about.

Jim said GSM “fits in the middle” of established farming groups such as AgForce, the Queensland Farmers Federation and similar advocacy bodies.

“These are all very good organisations, but they all have a weakness and that is that they have to work with government to achieve anything,” Jim said.

“Often this means they have to give something to get something for their members, and what they often have to give is their agreement to even more regulation.”

Jim said GSM’s strength was that it is not part of the same system, so it can voice the general dissatisfaction farmers, foresters, fishers and the transport industry feel about the long-term direction of government policy-making.

As an independent body, it is also free to challenge conservation or animal rights groups if they promote stories about rural practices that are untrue.

“We’re not violent and we are not unreasonable people,” Jim said.

“We’re naturally conservative and like farmers everywhere, we want to preserve and improve our environment for future generations.

“But our voices aren’t being listened to in the cities, and we want to change that.”

Later in the day, the Kingaroy cluster will be holding a “Beef, Beers And Candid Conversation” meeting at the Carrollee Hotel from 5:00pm.

At this meeting, members of the public can meet GSM members informally to find out more about who they are, who they represent and what they’re doing to ensure to voices of rural and regional people are heard.

GSM coordinator Martin Bella will be attending, and GSM merchandise and green shirts will also be on sale.

Members of the public who would like to find out more about the Kingaroy cluster or RSVP for the Carrollee Hotel meet and greet can contact Jim on 0439-451-473 or by email, preferably by February 4.

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