Last year in the immediate aftermath of the Queensland fires I visited the Miriam Vale evacuation centre. The people I met there had just lost land, property and pets. Their understandable frustration spilled over and almost every person raised with me that if only they had been able to do more cool burns, or clear fire breaks, this would not be as bad.
We took those views back to Canberra and established a Parliamentary inquiry. Eventually, the state government also established a review by their Inspector-General.
The Inspector-General's report has vindicated the concerns of Miriam Vale landowners and others across Queensland. The Inspector-General recommended that "the framework of legislation relating to vegetation management ... be re-assessed."
The Queensland Labor government is ignoring the views of rural Queenslanders by not accepting this recommendation in full. The Labor party has claimed that instead all they need to do is to run an education campaign on the existing vegetation management arrangements.
That flies completely in the face of the Inspector-General’s report, which said "several landholders" had stated that “the legislation relating to land clearing was too prohibitive for individuals to meet its requirements."
But Labor is not listening to these perspectives. The Labor view seems to be that farmers are just too silly, they don't understand the law and a new call centre, staffed with people who probably have never visited a farm, will re-educate farmers on how they are doing it all wrong.
Back in the real world, we know that Labor’s draconian vegetation management laws have left many landholders too cowed to reduce fuel loads on their properties. The Queensland Labor Government has created a culture of trepidation on the land, making it too difficult for farmers to make the right decisions to protect and manage their own land.
That is shown in the Inspector-General's report too. The number of cool burns conducted in Queensland has halved from two years ago.
There is a clear need to reassess the vegetation management framework in light of last year's devastating fires. Why won't the Labor government agree to a simple review? What have they got to hide?
It’s not surprising that Labor is hiding the deals they have had to do with the Greens to remain in power – one of which is more control over vegetation management.
The Labor party seems willing to expose Queensland farmers and their families to a higher degree of fire risk simply to pick up a few votes in inner city Brisbane. We must stop this trade-off form of politics. Let's just make the right decisions and review the vegetation management act immediately.