22nd February 2022

Nick Dametto speaking at the Ayr growers industry forum.

The Palaszczuk Labor Government’s agricultural industry-destroying Great Barrier Reef (GBR) regulations will come under attack this week as Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) seeks to repeal legislation that demonises farmers and restore balance to the Queensland’s misguided environmental laws.

KAP Deputy Leader and Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto’s Environmental and Other Legislation (Reversal of Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) Amendment Bill 2021, which completely repeals the draconian reef legislation passed by Labor in 2019, is designed to “safeguard the future of agriculture in Queensland reef catchment areas”.

The KAP bill seeks to reduce the maximum penalties for offences committed under the Environmental Protection Act from over $220,000 to its previous $13,000 (as they were prior to Labor’s amendments in 2019), and also introduces a number of protections for farmers from future regulatory changes to nutrient application.

“As part of this bill we have proposed an independent regulator who will operate at arms-length in an advisory capacity to the Minister,” Mr Dametto said.

“The regulator will have an extensive background in both agriculture and science, meaning they will be exceptionally qualified to give advice to the Minister when making a new Environmentally Relevant Activity (ERA) standard that could impact the industry.

“The Bill also seeks to legislate an enforceable undertaking for a first offence, as opposed to a financial penalty, for a breaches of Section 78 of the Environmental Protection Act in relation to fertiliser application.

“Growers want to work with the Department to develop better farming practices; when working with such a complicated regulation not every breach of the Act is intentional.

“This should be recognised by government and instead of waving the ‘big stick’ of an unpayable fine.”

Mr Dametto said the reef regulation changes made by Labor in 2019 were an assault on current and future farming and did little to recognise the industry lead work that has been done to develop better farming practices.

“The motivations behind these laws have always been political, and never practical – it’s based on science that has unearthed more questions than answers and relies heavily on modelling to fill the many gaps in the data.

“Industry leaders and some scientists have questioned the integrity of reports that have been used to develop government policy in regards to the impact of farm run-off and water quality on the GBR.

“Science that hasn’t been audited or replicated should not be used by government to essentially put a line through the future of an industry for political point scoring in the south-east.

“Regional Queensland that relies heavily on the viability of farming to shore up their economic future deserves representation on this issue.”

Mr Dametto said he was doubtful of any support from the Palaszczuk Labor Government.

“The big question though is not will the Labor Party back the KAP to repeal their own legislation, it’s clear that they believe farmers are killing the reef, but whether the LNP will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the KAP to support farmers they claim to represent,” he said.

“The LNP were staunchly opposed to Labor’s laws back in 2019 – farmers would  hope this hasn’t changed.”

Independent scientist and GBR expert Dr Peter Ridd, who has consistently called for the science that dictates public policy to be based on a higher standard of quality assurance than currently exists, said the Queensland agricultural industry had been unfairly demonised.

“This year the reef has exceptionally high coral cover, the highest on record by some measures,” he said.

“The water quality of the reef is so good that pesticides from farms are at such low levels that they can’t be measured with the most ultra-sensitive scientific equipment, and yet farmers continue to be vilified for killing the reef.

“The government must contemplate the possibility that there has been considerable exaggeration about threats to the reef and do an audit on the evidence it has used to legislate against farmers.”


Nick Dametto MP