The Senate Regional and Rural Affairs Transport References Committee today tabled its final report on its Inquiry into the Queensland Labor Government’s controversial reef regulations.
LNP Senators McDonald, Rennick and Canavan penned their own dissenting report condemning the blunt force policy approach taken by the State Government, which will not only guarantee a decline of Queensland’s $12 billion agricultural industries, but decimate regional communities relying on agriculture from Maryborough to Mossman.
As part of their dissenting report, the LNP Senators made a number of recommendations, including the establishment of an Office of Scientific Review, a review of the water quality targets, reverting back to voluntary science-agriculture partnership Best Management Practice (BMP) as a first step, and the repeal of the staggering increase to penalties attached to the regulations to help restore trust between the government and primary producers.
Senator McDonald expressed disappointment in the Queensland Labor Government’s woeful approach to the design and implementation of these regulations.
“We heard evidence from natural resource management and research groups that these costly and heavy-handed regulations will not improve reef water quality, but will instead require farmers to complete additional, unnecessary paperwork and cost about $60,000 per producer,” she said.
“During this Inquiry it became crystal clear, that leaving aside complex matters of science, there has been a complete failure by the Government to treat primary producers with any respect.
“The extreme disconnect between science and agriculture has been one of the most concerning findings of this Inquiry and I genuinely hope there will be a focus on re-building the trust between them.
“We know genuine science-agriculture partnerships are capable of achieving solid environmental outcomes because we heard evidence at the public hearings about the positive results these programs have - and governments should focus on these programs before turning to harsh, out-of-step, blunt force regulatory approaches.”
Senator Gerard Rennick said: “This Inquiry has identified there are real questions about the extent of the impact on-farm run-off is having on the Great Barrier Reef and there is a greater need to test the empirical science, which is why we’ve heeded the calls of stakeholders in recommending an Office of Scientific Review.
“We heard extreme weather events, like cyclones and flood events, ocean acidification, industry run-off, fishing and coastal development also contribute to the water quality of the Reef – and there is no hard evidence to suggest farm run-off is affecting coral growth rates or that it causes crown of thorns starfish outbreaks.
“Laying poor water quality solely at the feet of our farmers and graziers through unattainable water targets is reprehensible and disingenuous.”
Senator Canavan was critical of the State Government’s hefty increase to penalties given the significant evidence of the agriculture industry’s willingness to work towards best practice.
“With staggering increases to the penalties from about $13,000 to more than $220,000, it’s no wonder farmers feel like criminals,” he said.
“Queensland’s laws effectively make farming illegal by imposing unreachable targets on agricultural expansion. If farming can’t grow, it will eventually disappear.
“These laws were never about the reef or farming. If they were, the Queensland Government would have spoken to farmers more before putting them in place. These laws were all about getting Green votes in Brisbane for Labor.
“We must end the trading-off of jobs in regions for votes in cities. The Coalition Senator’s changes would better connect the real world to the law and help rebuild trust between farmers and our government.”
The LNP State Opposition team have committed to a review of these reef regulations if they are successful in forming Government after the October 31 election.
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