AgForce CEO Mike Guerin (Photo: AgForce)

June 8, 2021

Lobby group AgForce Qld has repeated its call for a national “Office of Science Quality Assurance” to ensure that “outdated, flawed, non-peer-reviewed science and pressure from green groups” does not set government policy.

AgForce is backing a Bill in State Parliament put forward by Katter’s Australian Party which aims to reverse Barrier Reef protection regulations implemented by the State Government.

The group says landholders in six reef catchment areas have been “stung” by a raft of new regulations implemented by the State Government over the past 18 months “despite little proof agricultural practices have any impact on the reef and water quality”.

The latest set of regulations, involving permits for new cropping land, prompted several well-attended meetings by landholders in the South Burnett this year. The Burnett is part of one of the “reef catchments” defined by the State Government.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said an independent Office of Science Quality Assurance was the only way to protect farming families and regional communities from “onerous, unfair regulations” which he said were forcing some people out of the industry.

“Farming families in reef catchment areas are leaving the industry because they have had enough of taking the blame for something they’re not responsible for – enough of the red tape and bureaucracy hindering their farming efforts to lead us in our post-COVID recovery,” he said.

“An independently run Office of Science Quality Assurance isn’t only for the reef.

“Once established, it would be able to oversee every aspect of policy-setting science related to vegetation management, the environment, air quality, and much more.

“Agriculture has nothing to hide. If it is the same for the people pointing the finger, then why not get on board and support our continued calls for an Office to guarantee legislation is created on evidence-based facts, not opinions?”

AgForce Reef Taskforce Chair Alex Stubbs said the Reef Regulation Reversal Bill put forward by KAP was a chance to “go back to the future” on reef regulations.

“This Bill, if passed, will take us back to the level of regulation and penalties units we had in 2009,” Mr Stubbs said.

“It would mean regulating three reef catchments instead of six – Burdekin, Wet Tropics, and Mackay Whitsunday.

“It would still require producers in certain situations and locations to operate within an accredited Environmental Risk Management Plan, but one with many more practical farm plan options.

“And producers would still have to apply only the optimum amount of fertiliser, based on a soil test.

“Importantly, the Bill proposes that all producers have a ‘duty of care’ to notify authorities of any environmental harm to water quality while carrying out activities under their Environmental Risk Management Plan, as well as to appoint an independent regulator to oversee enforceable actions and development of ERA standards.

“If AgForce’s calls for an independent Office are finally accepted, we can prove once and for all that land-based runoff of fertilisers and pesticides are not harming the reef and there is therefore no need for the current level of regulation in reef catchments.”

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