Labor has turned its back on the bush - Queensland Country Life

THE Labor Party is said to have its origins in a strike by shearers in Barcaldine in 1891. Every May Day, Labor faithful return to the town for a street march and festivities at the showground. But the fact is Labor long ago turned its back on the bush.

There is no better example than the vegetation management legislation the Palaszczuk government has before the Queensland Parliament right now.

It potentially threatens high-value agriculture, devalues properties and criminalises farmers who are following sensible land management practices.

And the ideology-driven policies of the Palaszczuk government are becoming harder to separate from the activists'. For good reason: environmental activists appear to have played a direct role in framing the new Queensland legislation.

AgForce has drawn attention to the Palaszczuk government's reference to the High Conservation Resource Network, which has members that include WWF, the Rainforest Alliance and the UK-based Proforest.

Unaccustomed as they are to public protest, farmers have rallied in towns and cities throughout the state against this legislation.

They have identified lots that's wrong with it, particularly provisions restricting management of regrowth and also removing high-value agriculture and irrigated high-value agriculture as a relevant purpose for clearing vegetation.

The Queensland legislation runs counter to the spirit of the Australian government's White Paper on Developing Northern Australia and Agricultural Competiveness.

I believe sensible land-clearing and appropriate water-storage and irrigation infrastructure are essential for developing HVA and IHVA in northern Australia, in turn adding billions of dollars a year to Australia's food and fibre production.

Already, agriculture is a vital contributor to the Australian economy. Total farm production hit a record $63 billion in 2016-17. Exports were worth $45 billion, led by beef and other meat, wheat, wool, dairy, wine and sugar. Food exports were up by $3 billion, thanks to good rainfall and favourable growing conditions.

Bringing new areas into production through clearing and irrigation, especially in northern Australia, could lift exports even higher, helping feed a growing Asian appetite for quality food products, boosting our economy and increasing job opportunities in regional Australia.

This is another example of where an ideological stance by a state government can stymie national ambition to further enhance the Australian economy.

It is ironic the Palaszczuk government is legislating to massively increase environmental "green tape" when the Turnbull-McCormack government is searching for ways to do the exact opposite.

My colleagues Josh Frydenberg and David Littleproud, Ministers for the Environment and for Agriculture and Water Resources respectively, on March 29 announced an independent review of the impact on farming of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

This builds on a recommendation by the Productivity Commission's 2017 report into the Regulation of Australian Agriculture.

David said family businesses simply trying to manage their land were drowning in paperwork. "We need to make life simple for them and let them produce the best food and fibre in the world. We don't want sensible projects which benefit both environment and farmer to be stalled because of mountains of paperwork. My job is to get government out of farmers' lives."

An AgForce submission on the new legislation complains that it acts "to make vegetation management activities tougher and to centralise power in Brisbane City".

On May 7, the Labor faithful marching down Barcaldine's main street shouldn't be disappointed not too many farmers are cheering them on.

Matt Canavan, Queensland Nationals Senator, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia.

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