Progress on Bill to repeal Reef regs
HINCHINBROOK MP Nick Dametto says his draft Bill to repeal Labor’s farm-destroying Reef regulations is on track following a meeting with a key grower group.
Mr Dametto met with members of the Pioneer Cane Growers Organisation (PCGO) board in Ayr last Thursday to seek feedback on the Bill and suggestions for improvements.
“It was great to be able to sit down with PCGO deputy chair Dean Sgroi and director Max Musumeci to discuss what the Bill is proposing. Dean and Max are growers themselves so I really appreciated their feedback and insights into the challenges that the government’s Reef regulations have put on the industry,” Mr Dametto said.
“I felt the meeting was productive and helped confirm that the measures Katter’s Australian Party will be putting into the Bill will restore a better balance between agriculture and protecting the environment.”
Among the key aims of the Bill will be repealing heavy fines for growers if found in breach of environment regulations, repealing the government’s ability to force growers to provide an environmental impact statement if they want to crop an existing part of their farm they have cropped in the past, repealing government powers to demand information from any advisor or company working with cane farmers and repealing Reef water quality offsets that will limit crop expansion of sugar cane.
“These Reef regulations that were legislated by Labor in 2019 as amendments to the Environmental Protection Act were completely unnecessary,” Mr Dametto said.
“Our farmers have already made great strides when it comes to reducing their nutrient run off to the Reef, the impact of which is questionable according to Professor Peter Ridd. It is also alarming that the government will have these Big Brother powers to demand information from those that are working with our farmers at any time. This is a gross invasion of privacy and paints our growers as being guilty until proven innocent. This is ethically wrong and unjust.
“If the government has the powers to demand such information, it sets a dangerous precedent for other agricultural industries. You’ve got to wonder who’ll be next if Labor isn’t held to account on this.
“I fear that if the government doesn’t pull back on these regulations, this will become the catalyst that will slowly shut down Queensland’s sugar cane industry, similar to what happened with tobacco in the early 2000s.”
Mr Sgroi said the government’s changes to the Environmental Protection Act were “over-the-top, draconian and were setting up cane farmers as criminals”.
“The industry at large is innovating to improve farming practices. We don’t want to be destroying our own backyard and our industry brings in an awful lot of money to the community. Nobody in the industry is setting out to cause damage to the Reef. We are trying to minimise our impacts on the environment, bearing in mind that any human activity, no matter what it is, will always have some impact on the environment,” he said.
“Farmers are the real environmentalists. It’s a triple bottom line for us. We’ve got to be sustainable financially, environmentally and socially.”
Mr Sgroi said Mr Dametto’s Bill was “a step in the right direction”.
“Right from the start, PCGO’s position on these Reef regulations was to leave the legislation where it was previously. It wasn’t perfect but we could live with it,” he said.
“Our main concerns relate to the extent of fines, the way that the government can access farmers’ financial records that would otherwise require a warrant and the potential impact on farmers’ mental health with this unreasonable persecution by the government.
“The previous legislation wasn’t painting us and the industry as environmental vandals. The government’s 2019 amendments just go too far and it is questionable whether any measures by farmers will help the Reef when the main reason there is damage to the Reef is because of a change in the climate.”
Mr Dametto weclomed other grower bodies to get in touch with his office should they wish to offer feedback on the draft Bill.
“Apart from PCGO, we’re yet to field any formal meeting requests from other grower groups about the Bill but I would welcome the opportunity to do so,” he said.
Grower bodies interested in requesting a meeting with Mr Dametto to discuss the Bill can email email@example.com