ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION (GREAT BARRIER REEF PROTECTION
MEASURES) AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT REGULATION
Disallowance of Statutory Instruments (Cognate Debate)
Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (6.06 pm): I rise to support the disallowance motion relating to the disallowance of subordinate legislation No. 234 and No. 233. These regulations are a product of last year’s punitive Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill. I also advise the House that, in accordance with my register of interests, I am a landholder who is impacted by the act.
The reef act is one of the most egregious examples of this government’s desperation to be in lock step with the wishes of radical environmental activists; of a government willing to pander to a green agenda for some votes and Twitter accolades; of cynical political expediency being the central tenet of government policy. The reef laws were rushed in to achieve a political agenda and granted sweeping legislative powers to the chief executive of the department to set underlying standards and requirements. The government rushed through legislation and transferred responsibility through subordinate legislation to the bureaucracy.
I support this disallowance motion because too much power is being put into the hands of the executive at the expense of parliament and because industries that are vital to Queensland’s economic health are being hamstrung by excessive regulation and government overreach. We need to free up industries such as agriculture and tourism, not tie them up. If the government is truly genuine about addressing the economic challenges facing this state it will also support this disallowance motion.
Subordinate legislation No. 234 prescribes catchment maps and minimum agricultural practice standards which farmers will be forced to comply with. Specifying the standards, yet not including them within the actual regulation, has been identified as a potential breach of fundamental legislative principles. The parliament has no way to debate, amend or reject these provisions. A huge part of these laws is now in the hands of the unelected bureaucracy and the executive. They have been removed from parliamentary scrutiny. Imposing methodologies and mapping instead of preserving them in subordinate legislation is a blatant example of this government’s active disdain for the parliament and parliamentary scrutiny. It also highlights the government’s overwhelming contempt for farmers and regional communities who depend on the agricultural sector.
It is not surprising when the minister who is supposed to advocate for and support the agricultural sector refused to stand up in this parliament and speak against the reef laws. The minster sat back and let the green agenda roll right on by. Nothing was said to defend the interests of farmers and producers.
Last year we were told that AgForce members manage about 20 per cent of the grazing and grain land across the six catchments. In 13.4 million hectares, or 40 per cent of that area, they have already completed best management practice. The environment minister’s speech showed the government’s negative view of the sector with claims about farming practices when she said— The standards will require growers to replace outdated high-risk practices with practices that are known to limit nutrient and sediment run-off and enhance efficiency, including in cost of production.
Those views contradict the story the agricultural minister told as a senator. Minister Furner told the Senate a different story about land management practices near the reef when he said— … farmers in the region, as a result of consultation, have been taking a responsible approach and have been considering the way they conduct their agriculture and their land use in those areas. That is, to some degree, lessening the impact on the reef.
The minister also should know that regardless of their run-off risk and proximity to the reef everyone is targeted. The reef laws extended to catch primary producers further west and south than previously covered, including those in the Burnett and Mary catchment areas who were previously unregulated. The minister should know that AgForce asked how it is ‘feasible for run-off water from a property near Alpha to travel 886 kilometres along the entire length of the Burdekin River to reach the reef?’ There has been silence. No answer. The minister said and did nothing to support stakeholders.
Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan told the committee—
… having meetings is one thing but feeling like we have been listened to is a different story … It feels like the more meetings we have the worse it gets.
The agriculture minister does nothing to defend the industries he is supposed to support around the cabinet table. He is mute because he is more interested in appeasing inner-city activists. The minister allows them to trample over the agriculture sector with egregious overreach such as this. Judge them by what they do, not by what they say.
Farmers and primary producers seriously undertake their responsibility as custodians of the land, ecosystems and biodiversity. They understand it must be cared for now and for future generations. The management of erosion and sediment run-off is a top priority because land is one of their primary assets.
To hold landholders solely accountable for sediment run-off is ludicrous, unfair and unaffordable.
Subordinate legislation No. 233 fixes the commencement date of 1 December 2019 for the remaining provisions of the GBR act. Our support of the disallowance motion is a natural consequence of our opposition to the reef laws and our amendments. Almost everyone wants to protect the reef, just as they want to protect the environment. Few people deliberately set out to be environmental vandals.
Distorting the science to selectively choose the science to back a predetermined policy position creates bad policy and is bad government. The department even admitted during the committee hearings that independent consultancy and scientific work was needed on the reef laws.
The government was warned that the reef laws granted excessive powers to bureaucracy, were founded on little scientific basis, were rushed, impose exorbitant fines, ignore primary producers, devalue farming, were cynically shaped according to a green agenda and will do little to help the reef.
It not only went ahead with them; it blamed the farmers and farming communities. Labor members from coastal electorates did not explain how they justified this attack on their regions, their workers, their families and their local businesses. They disappeared. They did not fight for their communities. These communities cannot trust that government members will stand up when it is needed. The public has lost trust in the government. The public cannot trust ministers to act in the best interest of Queenslanders and our industries. The public cannot trust that ministers are guided by anything other than blatant political self-interest and cynical political expediency.
The reef laws were a stitch up which eroded trust between primary producers and the
government. Industries, workers, families and businesses which are impacted by reef regulations have all expressed concern about the government’s contentious direction. I support this disallowance motion because including standards within the legislation allows full parliamentary scrutiny and provides certainty for both agricultural and environmental stakeholders.