The Palaszczuk Government is a serious threat to the future of agriculture in Queensland.
In March, the Palaszczuk Government released a discussion paper entitled – ‘Enhancing regulations to ensure clean water for a healthy Great Barrier Reef and a prosperous Queensland’. Behind the warm and fuzzy title is another aggressive attack on Queensland’s agricultural sector by the fanatical Labor/Green alliance.
Labor’s Environment Minister, Steven Miles, is proposing an expansion and extension of the unfair and unjustified reef regulations originally imposed on sugar cane farmers and beef producers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay/Whitsunday catchments by the Bligh Government in 2009. This is another ideologically driven crusade. The discussion paper states the regulations will be expanded to include the horticulture and grain sectors and the regulations in place for the sugar and beef industries will be increased.
In addition, these strengthened regulations will be extended into the Fitzroy and Burnett/Mary catchments, as well as the east coast of Cape York Peninsula. The discussion paper seeks to justify the wider and enhanced application of these regulations by suggesting that improvements in water quality outcomes have been too slow.
I recently attended the 2017 conference of the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists in Cairns. This year, there was a focus on nitrogen use efficiency and water quality outcomes. Given Labor is proposing stronger regulations on sugar cane growers, you would have thought it may have turned up to ensure it was aware of the huge amount of good work being done by the industry, to minimise its environmental footprint. No-one from the Palaszczuk Government bothered to turn up and get the facts about the significant practice changes that have occurred voluntarily over the last 25 years and the huge gains made in the last 10 years.
The two most impractical and offensive aspects of Labor’s 2009 reef regulations were that they imposed an inflexible template on diverse agricultural systems across the sugar cane and beef industries and actually redefined farming as an environmentally relevant activity (ERA). This lumped farmers in with other ERA’s, such as sewage treatment plants and heavy metal refineries.
The additional regulations proposed in the 2017 discussion paper centre around two additional mechanisms – the setting of so-called pollution load limits in each regulated catchment and the creation of a framework for water quality offsets. Both of these proposals are a slippery slope to farmers and industries being forced to accept production losses.
I submitted a Question on Notice to Minister Miles in March to flush out the intentions of the Palaszczuk Government.
Firstly, I asked what action the Palaszczuk Government proposed if a catchment pollution load limit was exceeded under existing land use conditions? Secondly, I asked if Labor would rule out imposing minimum practice standards that resulted in sub-optimum productivity and/or profitability outcomes for individual producers or industries?
The Minister confirmed that catchment load limits would be used to guide regulatory efforts to reduce nutrient and sediment catchment loads. Miles stated that catchment load limits will also be used to trigger the requirement for ag to offset impacts on water quality. This will be a cap or pay trap for farmers. The Minister also failed to rule out imposing minimum practice standards that resulted in sub-optimum productivity and/or profitability outcomes for individual farmers, or for an industry as a whole.
Queensland’s farmers can’t be complacent here. The expansion and extension of the 2009 reef regulations is another step towards the Labor/Green alliance objective of shutting down agriculture on Queensland’s east coast. I would recognise the rank stench of the WWF anywhere.
- Andrew Cripps MP