AGRICULTURE Minister Mark Furner’s electorate office in Brisbane was targeted by the Greens Shirts Movement, protesting the Palaszczuk government’s poor treatment of Queensland’s primary industries.
Led by Koumala farmer and former Queensland rugby league great Marty Bella, the farmers and fisheries staged an afternoon long protest offering sausage sandwiches and wild caught prawns to passers-by.
The protest was sparked by Queensland’s recent unprecedented bush fire crisis, which saw grazing leases destroyed and fires spreading to private property.
Mr Bella said the controversial Queensland vegetation management laws introduced by the Palaszczuk government in May this year were reducing the productivity and profitability of agricultural land. In addition, the laws were compromising the environment, he said.
“These concerns aren’t new but the bush fire crisis forced us to act and let the minister know things have to change,” Mr Bella said, who spent more than a week fighting fires in a desperate effort to save his cattle property at Koumala.
“Those fires were the direct result of land, including national parks, not being properly managed because of either this laws, or in the case of national parks, not being properly funded.
“And the problem is only going to get worse. In 2020 we will see about 70 forest grazing leases absorbed into the national park estate without any increase in funding to manage that land.
“Without management those hundreds of thousands of hectares will become a time bomb, just waiting to explode next time there is a fire season.”
Protesters were also angry about the treatment of fishers, the recently announced closures of Queensland’s agricultural colleges, and spiraling electricity prices.
To his credit, Mr Furner emerged from his office to meet with the protesters. He agreed to meet with three of the organisation’s leadership team and spent more than 30 minutes discussing the group’s concerns.
Queensland Country Life was excluded from the meeting.
Following the meeting Mr Bella said while there was no doubt Mr Furner had heard what was said, he was still still to be convinced he had listened.
“There is a very big difference between hearing and listening,” Mr Bella said.
“Whether he actually listened is still to be seen. He’s obviously an intelligent man but it’s also obvious he’s very closely monitored by his minders.”
Asked how he know if the minister had listened, Mr Bella said “the proof will be in his actions”.
“If we see the vegetation management laws properly dealt with, if we see a proper inquiry into the bushfires, and if we see a review of how national parks are managed, then we will know he listened.”
Green shirts are worn to signify that primary producers are the real environmentalists.
You can’t tell me that academics in Brisbane know more about the landscape than people that actually manage the land every day of lives and have the advantage of intergenerational knowledge.
“You can’t tell me that academics in Brisbane know more about the landscape than people that actually manage the land every day of lives and have the advantage of intergenerational knowledge,” Mr Bella said.
“We’re talking about people in cities with qualifications making decisions when many farmers not only have qualifications but also have the applied knowledge.
“Primary producers have vested in making sure the land is properly managed. If they don’t they lose their ability to generate an income.”
Caloundra based fisher Michael Thompson said Queensland’s fishing industry was being squeezed out of existence by government policy.
“We’re sick of being consulted and not being listened to,” Mr Thompson said.
“We don’t have any advantage over recreational fishers but we are losing our livelihoods because of flawed government policy.”
Boonah cattleman Greg Anderson said introduced, invasive weed lantana had become a major problem in his district.
“We’re chasing our tail. Every day we are seeing the productivity of the land reduced and our profitability go down because of this invasive weed,” Mr Anderson said.
“Where there is lantana in remnant timber we can’t even clear it because the Palaszczuk’s government vegetation laws lock it up. Even we could find a way there is still a $3250 permit fee, which makes the whole process uneconomic.”
Garry Herbert, who runs a business removing and eradicating lantana, said national parks were a major source of seed for the invasive weed.
“Governments are responsible for spreading more lantana then anyone else. But they are just not doing anything about the mess they are creating,” Mr Herbert said.
“Every year the problem is just getting bigger and bigger right along the eastern seaboard.
“If you want to see a bad fire just wait until this out of control lantana burns. It’s not just on the ground, it grows up in the canopies of trees. Nothing can escape, especially not the wildlife.”