QUEENSLAND’s Palaszczuk government has delivered its promised anti-farmer vegetation management laws, stripping away the rights of farmers to develop new land for food and fibre production.
The controversial laws were introduced to parliament by Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham just after 3pm this afternoon. However, little advance notice of the laws were given. Even parliament’s daily notice paper did not reference the introduction of the new laws.
The new laws have now been sent to the Natural Resources and Agricultural Committee, which will report back to parliament on April 23.
However, with Labor holding a clear majority in parliament and eager to please extreme green groups, the committee process is expected to prove little more than a rubber stamp, even though opposition parties are likely to produce a dissenting report.
It is still to be seen if the committee holds consultation meeting in regional areas.
While the new laws are bad news for farmers, the Palaszczuk has comprised on a limited number of particularly controversial areas. These include the removal of draconian reverse onus of proof laws, which forced landholders to prove their innocence. Mistake of fact can also again be used as a defense by landholders who inadvertently breach the Vegetation Management Act, particularly when relying on faulty government mapping.
Land that is locked up, you just destroy it.
Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said the Palaszczuk government would also work to improve the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) to better identify where vegetation thickening had occurred.
The new laws will also impact on the mulgalands. Landholders will be limited to feeding livestock in 50m wide strips, but must leave 75m corridors untouched.
Property Map of Assessable Vegetation (PMAV) will also remain the mechanism for the protection of vegetation management rights. PMAVs lodged by the close of business on March 7 will be processed prior to the mapping changes being made.
New layers of Category C (so called high value regrowth) and Category B (remnant vegetation) will not apply to areas under a pre-March 7 PMAV.
The presentation of the new laws drew a predictable response from farmers, who had lobbied the government to recognise the importance of agriculture to the Queensland economy.
AgForce president Grant Maudsley said the laws were flawed and should be again rejected as was the case with laws presented by Labor to parliament in August 2016.
"The legislation that was introduced today includes interim codes that come into place tomorrow morning," he said.
"There are currently no guidelines or support available to producers to understand their obligations within the interim codes, so what confidence can we have in this Government to support Queensland's fastest growing industry?
"AgForce is once again asking the Palaszczuk Government to show real leadership and work genuinely with those most affected by these laws to come up with a long-lasting solution to this issue.
After hearing brief details about the new laws, including the banning of broadscale clearing, Amby grazier Peter Joliffe said it wasn't good news for agriculture.
"Land that is locked up, you just destroy it," he said.
"You have got to manage it, it can't be left. The big problem, is with the government now, they don't really understand the impact of it. They haven't got enough qualifications and they are just listening to what they hear."
LNP leader Deb Frecklington said Labor had launched an unfair attack on farmers, their families and farming communities right across Queensland.
“Instead of supporting farmers Annastacia Palaszczuk is tying them up in more red tape and threatening their ability to grow the food we put our tables and the fibre we put on our backs,” Ms Frecklington said.
“I will do all I can to convince Queenslanders that this legislation is bad not just for regional Queensland but the south east as well.
“It will affect housing affordability, it will affect food security and it will make battling drought much more difficult.
“Protecting the (Great Barrier) reef is vital but scaremongering about the impact of farmers is disgraceful.”
LNP opposition natural resources spokesman Dale Last said the new laws would make it nearly impossible to bring new land into high value agricultural production.
“This is a real kick in the guts for North Queensland where so many farmers are keen to grow more food for our state and for export,” Mr Last said.
“Labor’s laws will mean we can’t supply more Queensland avocados, mangoes and macadamia nuts.
“They’ll mean Queensland will be forced to import more fruit, vegetables and nuts, even though we have the ability to grow our own here.
“Smashed avocado, mango salsa and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts are better if they come from Queensland. Clearly Labor doesn’t understand and doesn’t care about growing Queensland agriculture.”
The LNP has initiated a petition titled Fight for Farmers, opposing the Palaszczuk government’s new vegetation management laws.