For decades growers in Mackay district have been changing their farming practices and no doubt will continue to do so in the future.
Green cane trash blanketing, which is highly effective in preventing the movement of sediment from farms into creeks, was introduced some 30 years ago and our farming equipment and operations have been modified and updated since its inception.
The incorporation of inputs such as fertiliser and agricultural chemicals deep in the soil where the plant can use them has improved out of sight as growers have experimented and developed the machinery needed to carry out these processes.
However, despite this substantial progress, the current Bill before the Parliament seeks to increase the regulatory regime several-fold.
Most disturbingly, the government is seeking to be able to obtain records of advice, products and services supplied to growers by their agronomists, extension officers and even chemical and fertiliser resellers, ignoring privacy laws or the fact that commercial-in-confidence information is routinely withheld by other types of businesses.
I am always perturbed when I read that this State Government has “consulted” with groups.
What this word has become to mean is that people have been “spoken at and not listened to”.
This is particularly the case where the goal is to implement the greens’ agenda in south-east Queensland at the expense of the agricultural sector.
Our region has certainly not seen the minister come out to our farms to discuss with growers first-hand what they are doing on-farm to improve water quality or how the proposed new regulations are going to work in favour of the Great Barrier Reef.
Cane growers already take our responsibilities towards Reef water quality seriously and are well down the road of an industry-developed and independently assessed best management practices program — Smartcane BMP. Cane farmers are making real progress, with 70 per cent of the industry now involved, and the figure is climbing.
But what recognition do we get of how well we are doing?
I ask minister Leeanne Enoch why the State Government ceased to fund the very successful Cane Changer pilot program, when it has had very good results in the Wet Tropics, and saw the uptake of Smartcane BMP by growers accelerate significantly.
Clearly, this Bill is a message from a government that sees the program as getting in the road of their finger pointing, scapegoating and alienating one sector of the community to retain the support of another.
The cane farming families of this region are proud and protective of the Reef on their back doorstep.
Yet they feel they are in a no-win situation with a government that abuses their trust and actively works to turn society against them.
We are all able to live, work and grow our region together, when we collaborate, rather than using selective misinformation to tear one group down to support the political aspirations of another.
It is now more obvious than ever that this debate is not about the protection of the Great Barrier Reef but about what will get the most votes in the city.