AS ALP faithful gather in Barcaldine for the 125th anniversary of the 1891 Shearers’ Strike, Liberal National Party stalwart and former Member for Gregory, Vaughan Johnson has praised the current Labor state government for its attention to the needs of the bush.
Mr Johnson, announced on Sunday as a new wild dog fence commissioner along with South West NRM chairman Mark O’Brien, said the Newman government, which he had been a part of, had only paid lip service to western areas.
He was speaking from a property on the western outskirts of the town where the Premier committed her government to another $5 million for wild dog fencing, on top of the $4m that SW NRM and RAPAD are in the throes of distributing, along with $10m of federal funding.
“I’m very pleased to be a part of this,” Mr Johnson told waiting media. “Rural Queensland is sick of being second class citizens.
“Lawrence Springborg is a good mate, but the former government didn’t give us the recognition we deserve.
“If the Premier does this, she’ll go a long way.”
The move to appoint commissioners is understood to be an attempt to take politics out of the debate – Mr O’Brien has run as the ALP candidate for Warrego – and they were described by the Premier as having an overseeing role.
“They understand the bush and are well-respected,” Ms Palaszczuk said. “The state contribution is now $9m so they will look closely at where the money is allocated and where the need is.”
Graziers will breathe a sigh of relief to learn they will not be changing the rules set by RAPAD or SW NRM for the first round of Queensland Feral Pest Initiative money, with RAPAD receiving 34 submissions when applications closed last Friday.
However, Mr Johnson believed a unified standard needed to be adhered to, meeting certain heights and dimensions.
“There’s a lot of government money here – it’s got to be spent properly,” he said. “I’m an advocate of six foot fences.
“When I lived at Quilpie, I cut about 6000 posts that were over eight foot long.
“I believe four foot is too low – roos will jump over it and some dogs will too. I also believe the barb on top isn’t a good idea because of the potential for animals to get tangled.”
Mr O’Brien took a more moderate tone, saying they were a long way from deciding where the money would be spent, and that it wouldn’t be the sole decision of himself and Mr Johnson.
“There are seven trial clusters (in the south west) and we’ll be using the information from then to learn what the best thing is to do,” he said.
“We’ll be looking at the strategic use of the money, and heights and so on.
“Depending on the country side, it can vary. And standards have already been developed in the funding that’s out now.
“We’ll be looking at whether that’s the most appropriate.
“This announcement is the government taking a lead. All we are doing is seeing that it’s invested strategically and that we get the best bang for buck.”
He said any of the people who had missed out on funding to date should be excited by this announcement.
The pair expected to be sitting at a table with DPI staff to discuss implementation within a fortnight, and, two days before the federal budget, threw down the gauntlet to Malcolm Turnbull’s government to add its own funding to this latest amount.
With it, everyone could begin to see the return of sheep to the south and central west and the return of shearing gangs and improved town economies, they said.