Dametto slams committee on veg laws

HINCHINBROOK MP Nick Dametto has blasted a parliamentary committee report recommending the State Labor Government’s destructive vegetation management laws be passed.

In what will be a devastating blow to farmers in the region, the Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) MP said it was no surprise the Labor-stacked State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee came to its conclusion – despite more than 13,000 public submissions made and strong protests by more than 1000 landholders across Queensland.

“This is a kick in the guts to every producer and landholder in North Queensland,” Mr Dametto said.

“Labor should hang their heads in shame over this recommendation. All they are doing is pandering to inner- city Greens voters while screwing over Queensland’s farmers – the very people who put food on our table.

“Do they even have a conscience? As if farmers aren’t doing it tough already, now they have to contend with unnecessary restrictions on high value agricultural land-clearing, restrictions based on flawed data.”

Mr Dametto said the Statewide Landcover and Tree Study (SLATS) data and methodology used in Labor’s proposed vegetation laws was vulnerable to manipulation and misuse.

“The SLATS report does not take into account regrowth,” he said.

“For instance, it’s not clear whether the recent SLATs clearing rates include loss of vegetation to natural disasters such as cyclones.

“This begs the question, how can the supposedly scientific claims that land clearing is destroying the Great Barrier Reef and contributing to global warming be credible if we don’t know how much vegetation is growing? It’s an absolute farce.”

Mr Dametto said there was nothing wrong with the existing vegetation laws, which gave farmers the freedom they needed to both harvest their crops and care for the land.

“The current legislation allows property owners to apply for a development application to remove fodder and regrowth from their land to best manage their properties,” he said.

“Although the proposed bill allows farmers to make a development application, it’s almost certain that future development applications will not allow farmers to manage their properties in the same way.

“I, like the majority of voters in Hinchinbrook, are sick to death of environmental extremists influencing State Government policy in North Queensland. We’ve seen it with the bats and crocodiles and now Labor want to dictate to farmers what they can and cannot do on their own land.”

While several public hearings were held across regional Queensland by the committee before they reached their decision, Mr Dametto questioned the committee’s process when it was obvious Labor was only going to come to one conclusion about the proposed laws.

“I can’t speak for all of the public hearings but I had the opportunity to sit with the committee and ask questions during the Townsville public hearing. After listening to submissions from all stakeholders, I can undoubtedly say the landowners and producers who spoke used science, facts and figures to back up their argument,” he said.

“The same cannot be said for the Greens extremists present who only relied on emotion, unfounded statistics and sweeping statements. There were completely devoid of common sense, which doesn’t surprise anyone.

“When it comes to fighting for farmers, the very people who provide our nation’s food supply, only the KAP has their best interests at heart.”

Mr Dametto said together with his KAP colleagues, Hill MP Shane Knuth and Traeger MP Robbie Katter, he would not stop fighting against the proposed laws.

Cane Growers Herbert River manager Peter Sheedy said Labor’s vegetation laws would stifle the future growth of agriculture into industries such as bio-fuels.

“The cane crop we produce, it produces food and fibre which is a carbon rich mulch. It just seems crazy to tie it up in that fashion,” he said.

“If there is going to be a biofuel industry, for that to have a future, we’re going to have to clear a bit of country to allow the crop to be grown.

“We’re not rampant clearers of land but we do need to do that from time to time.”

Mr Sheedy said the committee’s recommendation was disappointing after State Labor Agriculture Minister Mark Furner’s strong endorsement of the future of the sugar industry during his recent keynote address at the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists Conference 2018 Annual Conference in Mackay.

“They go from supportive on the one hand to completely unsupportive on the other,” Mr Sheedy said. “We find it really tough on our industry.”

Australian Cane Farmers Association Herbert Region director Carol Mackee accused the State Government of rank hypocrisy when it came to clearing land in urban areas.

“Having travelled to Brisbane on a number of occasions, I have noticed wholesale clearing of land for urbanization without a care in the world for wildlife or vegetation. I find it a disgusting state of affairs when farmers are held to ransom with laws that stop them from making the most of their properties or being able to add value or make a living,” she said.

“Having been a farmer for a number of years, I care about our land and have acted accordingly. If I have taken out trees, I have planted new ones. Unfortunately, mother nature can disrupt the environment, causing devastation beyond any clearing that might be carried out. It is quite distressing to see the stupidity of governments causing hardship with laws that should not have been tabled in the first place.”

Nick Dametto MP