AgForce has slammed a ‘cruel and uncaring’ State Government for forcing its Reef Protection Bill through Parliament without considering the destructive impact it will have on regional and rural Queensland producers and their communities – nor the fact that it won’t actually save the Reef.
CEO Michael Guerin said the Government had added administrative, operational and financial burdens on an industry already stifled by confusing red tape, not to mention drought, flood and fires.
“By failing to listen to the small number of sensible and practical amendments proposed by AgForce and others, the Palaszczuk Government has delivered a sickening blow to an industry that contributes $14 billion to the State economy and provides direct employment for 57,000 people.
“In surging ahead with their sub-standard legislation, they have sacrificed a significant opportunity to harness the genuine desire of farmers to protect the Reef and the environment and collaboratively develop viable and sustainable solutions.
“They have completely lost the trust of families in rural and regional communities across the State, many of whom will now be burdened with additional record-keeping and reporting.
“Many will lose agribusiness opportunities and some their entire livelihoods.
“While producers will absorb much of this additional cost, there is no doubt it will result in higher prices for food and fibre to consumers.
“The fact that the Minister and her department completely ignored the thousands of written submissions and personal briefings provided by individuals and groups across the State demonstrates how this Government really views people living in rural and regional Queensland.”
Mr Guerin described Minister Enoch’s media statement, which declared the Bill a win for primary producers, as “a gross insult to the intelligence and goodwill of primary producers across the State”.
“The press release had the front to masquerade a couple of cosmetic changes as genuine and deep collaboration with the agriculture industry,” he said.
“Despite what the Government may think, farmers are neither naïve nor unintelligent and see this as the bovine fertiliser that it is.”
Mr Guerin said the Government was so focused on placating ‘environmental ideologues’ that they steadfastly refused sensible calls to consider the latest Reef science, which has advanced significantly since the 2017 Reef Consensus Statement the legislation is based on.
“Minister Enoch, whose portfolio actually includes science, has demonstrated her complete lack of regard for the discipline,” he said.
“The science this legislation is based on is at least three years old and has been called into question by a number of eminent scientists.
“Where is the logic? The reefs adjacent to Cape York, where sediment and nutrient targets were met, were the worst affected by recent bleaching events.
“This would affirm that rising sea temperatures and ocean currents are major risks to coral reef health, not farming practices undertaken up to 300 kilometres from the coast.
“No legislation which has such far-reaching, long-term, consequences for hard-working farming families and the regional communities who rely on them should be based on science that they refuse to expose to professional scrutiny.
“Not only that, but the Government totally dismisses the voluntary contribution of producers -the majority of farmers that have adopted best practice years ago and at their own expense.
“This is another example of government misconstruing information to progress regulatory agendas against farmers.
“We ask the entire Queensland community to join us in expressing their outrage at the appalling and arrogant manner in which a significant section of society has been deliberately excluded from the business of government.”