Hundreds of farmers marched on Queensland’s parliament house in Brisbane today, chanting for “fair laws for farmers”.
In a sea of Akubras and to the sound of cow bells, the farmers’ protest was an effort to stop the state’s Labor Government from passing controversial land clearing legislation preventing landholders from clearing vegetation on their properties.
Pete Marney, a cattle producer from central Queensland, told the crowd the protest was necessary as there were no options left.
“Labor Government hanging to power by a thread and ignoring the science and the chorus of condemnation, they remain stubbornly entrenched in the view of imposing bad laws on good people,” Mr Marney said.
“We are tired of facing new vegetation laws every time Labor wants to make a greedy grab for power and harness green preferences.”
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad proposed the new vegetation laws earlier this year. She said she will not ignore farmers’ concerns.
“I am not unmoved,” Ms Trad said.
“Of course I feel for everyone involved in this debate. But these laws have been in place in the past and they have seen the agricultural sector grow and increase in profitability.”
But the farmers disagreed, chanting during their protest “don’t Trad on me”.
‘We will work with science, not green politics’: Agforce
Peter Joliffe, who runs a property north-west of Roma in central-southern Queensland, said he has lost 8,000 hectares of producing land.
“About a third of our capacity is all we can be and we can’t get through droughts,” Mr Joliffe said.
“If we get droughts and our country is full of trees it doesn’t grow any grass.
“So we can’t expand anymore, and we’re in a situation where we put all our money back into that land to make it productive and can’t afford to buy any more land.”
His wife, Sue Joliffe, said they and other farmers know how to manage the land sustainably.
“The flora and fauna are thriving. Plus they co-exist with grazing animals,” Ms Joliffe said.
“What we’re doing, we’ve been doing it 40 years so what we’re doing must be right.”
Agforce president Grant Maudsley said the organisation was happy to work with the science, not the green politics.
“We need to look at the appropriate tree density, we need to look at what the science says about balancing productivity and biodiversity,” Mr Maudsley said.
“There’s a lot of studies done on biodiversity, we need more of that. We’re happy to work with community on what needs to be done to get the data better and we look forward to a proper debate on it a proper scientific discussion.”
But World Wide Fund Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor said the science showed land clearing damaged the environment.
“Last month we had 400 scientists at a national meeting of the society of conservation and biology sign a declaration and here’s what they said: “Australia’s land-clearing rate is once again highest in world, imperilling 60 per cent of Australia’s more than 17,000 threatened species,” Mr Taylor said.
“As science has been telling us for many decades now protecting trees prevents woodlands turning into desert, it conserves all sorts of benefits for farmers including holding back global warming.”