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Liberal Frank Beveridge supports Labor’s nationwide land clearing ban

from Jim O’Toole

Farmers in Bob Katter’s Kennedy electorate have been warned the Liberal candidate in the upcoming election has agreed with Labor’s intention of halting all land clearing in Australia.

Liberal Frank Beveridge, along with a Labor hopeful, at a candidates forum held in Mareeba two weeks ago said he was “100 per cent behind” Labor’s harsh clearing laws.

LNP candidate for Kennedy Frank Beveridge supports Labor’s proposed national clearing ban which will bring agricultural production to a halt within a few years

Some members of the audience expressed astonishment at hearing a Liberal candidate support clearing laws which had brought the state to a standstill and mercilessly prosecuted farmers through the courts for knocking down a tree or shrub in their paddocks.

Mareeba is a large farming and grazing district to the west of Cairns which has supported Bob Katter for decades as a true representative of rural Queenslanders who has consistently opposed Labor’s stringent vegetation management laws.

Katter said the Labor Party and now it seemed the Liberals had no interest in the rural sector and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad would like to see it closed down forcing farmers out of business.

Meanwhile Lakeland farmers after a meeting with government representatives have reported that the State Government plans to further penalise farmers by charging them licence fees to cultivate their fallowed paddocks.

Whatever happened to freehold rights which the duopoly has trashed?

State Leader of Katters Australian Party Robbie Katter said the next election would see Labor lose its majority by KAP getting at least three more members elected.

He said his team would be in a powerful position to clean up the ALP and LNP mess by reversing draconian legislation.

Members vow to vote down any changes to Qld vegetation laws moved by Labor

“We do not want a return to the nasty era of tree police”

     KAP member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth

An emotionally-charged meeting of Far Northern pastoralists, indigenous representatives, councils and farmers at Mareeba has urged three State Parliamentary crossbenchers to vote down proposed changes to the Vegetation Management Act.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, in a move to appease Brisbane environmentalists and bolster Greens Party preference support for the ALP, will introduce new VMA regulations to halt tree clearing in State Parliament this week.

Agforce hosted the gathering of nearly 80 primary producers and industry representatives from Innisfail to Cape York Peninsula, held at Mareeba Bowls Club on Tuesday.

In spite of the threat of a snap election, crossbenchers Rob Katter and Shane Knuth vowed they would vote against the new regulations that Mr Knuth said would set the state back 20 years.

Agforce Tablelands organiser Graham Elmes, Robbie Katter, Shane Knuth and Billy Gordon

“We have been telling the Premier for a long time that landowners cannot afford and will not support the return to the nasty era of tree police,” Mr Knuth said.

“We have just had one of the worst droughts in history with record numbers of bank foreclosures and the Labor Party wants to make farmers suffer even more.

“We will not support the new laws.”

After the meeting Mr Knuth said he did not know which way Member for Cairns, now independent Rob Pyne would vote after he deserted the Labor Party last week.

While addressing the audience, Member for Cook Billy Gordon tacitly approved the stance of his crossbench colleagues.

Agforce General President Grant Maudsley said the State Government’s own data showed tree coverage in Queensland increased by 437,000 hectares between 2012 – 2014.

“Moves by the government to reject simple data and repeal the current vegetation management laws are the biggest threat to Queensland farmers since the Gillard Government smashed the live cattle export trade in 2011,” Mr Maudsley told the meeting.

“The results for consumers will be more expensive fresh produce and a loss of jobs. Meat processors have already started putting off staff because of a slow-down in domestic cattle supply as the national herd hits a 20 year low.”

Mareeba District Fruit and Vegetable Growers representative Makse Srhoj warned the new laws would impact severely on farms within the MDIA because of their smaller size.

“If we have to leave 30 per cent remnant vegetation on a block then we can’t do anything with them, particularly if there are two or more deeds,” Mr Srhoj said.

“Who looks after the land the best? Farmers; we are the real greenies.”

Noel Pearson says even white people have land rights

Noel Peason

Noel Pearson

A member of the panel, indigenous leader Noel Pearson, waded in roundly condemning green groups and the ALP Government for holding back economic opportunities in northern communities, rejecting the new laws as a ‘rebirth’ of Wild Rivers legislation.

In his hallmark immutable style Pearson did not hold back, criticising Federal Member for Leichardt Warren Entsch and former Member for Cook, David Kempton for waging a “disgraceful campaign against Billy Gordon” after he was elected.

“These guys are ‘false prophets,’” Mr Pearson told an entirely attentive audience.

“We have no property rights on Cape York and we need upgraded tenure. There are lots of fronts where all landowners are vulnerable.”

Public servants who once worked for environmental lobby groups were targeted by Pearson for pushing extreme green agendas within government.

“These greens have infiltrated indigenous groups and government departments and it’s like a tag team, they are all the same, and have networked with all departments,” Mr Pearson said.

“Public servants should declare their association with environmental groups.

“The proposition there is going to be land clearing the size of Victoria, is fantasy.

“There are only pockets of land suitable for development.

“White people too have had many generations on this land and they have a great love for their land. It’s high time the law in Queensland started to respect that relationship.

“We spent five hard years and lots of money fighting Wild Rivers in court but we could have been doing other more productive things.

“We need another 10 independents in parliament to put us in a better position, given the absence of an Upper House.”

Traditional Owners support Olive Vale clearing

An inspection of vegetation clearing at Olive Vale station by officers from the Federal Environment Department was concluded today, but no official outcome has yet been given.

On Wednesday departmental officers spent most of the day flying over the station in a chartered helicopter.

olive vale station - 2

Officers from the Department of Environment look over the cleared vegetation in a chartered helicopter spaying kerosene exhaust over the vegetation

Owner of the Laura grazing property Paul Ryan said he was quietly confident the inspectors had not found any major issues, “…because we have been totally compliant with the permit conditions,” he said.

JackieTrad Labor Deputy Premier Queensland

A very GREEN Labor Party Deputy Premier Jackie Trad MP

Unsubstantiated accusations and claims of habitat and vegetation destruction were made last week by Deputy Premier Jackie Trad in State Parliament, who, according to Mr Ryan, had never visited the property.

A permit to clear vegetation for high value agriculture was granted on January 20, 2015, during the ‘caretaker’ mode prior to an imminent election which Ms Trad conceded was quite lawful as the original application had been made in the mid-term of the previous government which had requested two extensions of time.

In a Ministerial statement Ms Trad told Parliament the clearing of 32,000 hectares was approved for the purpose of high-value agriculture and included a crop, upland rice, which is not currently grown commercially in Queensland.

“As part of this review, my acting director-general sought independent advice on three specific matters,” she said.

“First, advice was sought from Crown Law about the application of the conventions of caretaker government.

“This advice confirms that the caretaker conventions were not contravened. “Second, advice was sought from Mr Greg Vann, a Life Fellow of the Planning Institute of Australia, about the decision-making process associated with the development approval, taking into account the requirements of the Sustainable Planning Act and associated policies and guidelines.

“Mr Vann concluded that the application was processed and decided in accordance with the relevant procedural requirements”. She said the department received conflicting advice from Mr Bill Thompson of Land Resource and Assessment Management Pty Ltd about the decision-making process associated with the determination that the proposed clearing was for a relevant purpose—in this case, high-value agriculture under section 22A of the Vegetation Management Act.

“Mr Thompson has advised that the correct decision from the assessment process should have been that the purpose of the clearing could not have been high-value agriculture”.

Amid interjections from LNP Members Ms Trad warned the Opposition, “… these are contraventions of the laws implemented by those opposite. Right now, the bulldozers are already clear-felling at Olive Vale, destroying habitat and vegetation that should be preserved”.

A Traditional Owner, Elder and stockman from Laura, Mr Joseph Lee Cheu said the land being cleared had little use in its present form.

olive vale station - Joseph Lee Cheu and Paul Ryan

Laura Traditional Owner Joseph Lee Cheu is pleased with the clearing at Olive Vale station after a visit to the area with owner Paul Ryan.

“We want the jobs that this farming project will provide and we have no opposition to the clearing and it won’t harm the environment,” said Mr Lee Cheu.

“There are millions of acres of similar land on the Peninsula in reserves and other properties. “Most Traditional Owners support the clearing here, and farming is much better than mining”.

Olive Vale station is the Laura district’s largest employer with an annual payroll of $1 million, directly benefitting the Laura, Cooktown and Hopevale communities.

“Our indigenous workforce and payroll will double in six months as we begin farming operations,” Mr Ryan said.

“We have begun a school-based apprenticeship scheme with Cooktown High School and a student will start a diesel-fitting course here later this year”.

The Deputy Premier told Parliament now that the former LNP government had approved the clearing, there was limited opportunity for the government to stop it.

“For that reason, today I have written to the federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, under section 69 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act,” Ms Trad said.

“If Mr Hunt determines that the clearing now under way is a controlled action, then the Commonwealth has the power to seek a Federal Court injunction to stop the bulldozers”.

She said she would be working with the Natural Resources Minister to change Vegetation Management laws to prevent any more development of “high value” farmland.

olive vale station - Paul Ryan - Peter Spies - Joseph Lee Cheu

Olive Vale owner Paul Ryan, Land Resources consultant Peter Spies and Traditional Owner Joseph Lee Cheu say the clearing has been done according to the permit conditions

Land Resource consultant Peter Spies said he had been undertaking ongoing soil analyses of the area to be cleared and found the soils to be suitable for sorghum, dryland rice and pulses with the potential for irrigation. Although the green element pushed the loss of species and habitat line, Mr Spies said the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry was excited about the proposal.

“We will be doing crop varietal trials for forage sorghum and baling it for forage will help drought proof the property and provide a ready source of feed for other properties in dry times,” Mr Spies said.

“There is the potential for feed lotting and having a live export depot for the port at Weipa, which would be dependent on the upgrading of the Peninsula Development Road.

“There are no threatened animal or plant species and we have developed species recovery plans by mapping all likely habitats.

“There is no threat whatsoever to the reef because there will be much less runoff from the almost level farmland than in its natural state”.

billy-cook-mp

“NO COMMENT” Billy Cook Independent MP and local member

The Member for Cook, Billy Gordon has refused to comment about the land clearing.

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