Labor’s ridiculous reef regulations

Watch my speech here.

Mr Speaker, the Bundaberg region is famous for farming. It’s who we are. Our farmers produce an abundance of sugar cane, peanuts, macadamias, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchinis, blueberries, strawberries and so much more. Without our farmers, Bundaberg would be a completely different place.

Mr Speaker, nobody wants to see the Great Barrier Reef come under threat, including our farmers. But clearly, the Labor Government wants to hurt them and put their livelihoods under threat.

Today I will speak on behalf of Bundaberg’s farmers and fight for what they undoubtedly deserve.

Just like every single Queenslander, farmers deserves a fair go. But, under Labor, they’re getting the opposite.

They’re constrained by red tape, being hit with soaring electricity prices, dealing with decreased water security, facing extreme vegetation management laws and now, they’re copping ridiculous reef regulations.

Labor’s reef reforms are excessive. They are unnecessary and fail to guarantee that the Great Barrier Reef will reap any benefits. As a result, our farmers are calling for a delay in the implementation of the laws until the science they are based on is confirmed to be right and true.

Many of our farmers come from farming families. Many grew up on farms and have watched their parents do the job they do now. It’s their way of life. It’s how they support their own families, with many hoping their kids will follow in their footsteps for generations to come. But, ahead of these proposed reef regulation reforms, many fear this could be the end of farming in their family, feeling as though Labor has set their livelihoods up to fail.

One Wide Bay farmer, who has 37 years of industry experience under his belt, believes he has already addressed any potential run-off issues after undergoing major works back in the year 2000.
Since then, he has had bus loads of people visit his property to look at his innovative farming techniques. Yet, still, Labor is telling him he’s not doing enough.

Similar circumstances can be abundantly seen at the Greensill Farming Group, an agri-business growing sweet potatoes in Bundaberg and who have spent millions of dollars implementing world class run-off initiatives.
Ever since this piece of legislation was introduced to this place on 27 February 2019, alarm bells have been ringing in the ears of our farmers, particularly for those in the sugar cane industry.

In Bundaberg, our sugar industry has an economic value of $141 million and employs over 650 residents. But, with the industry facing low international sugar prices on top of all the additional challenges, these reef reforms place additional pressure on the viability of cane farms and mills, putting these hundreds of workers at risk.

The Australian Sugar Millers Council (ASMC) in their submission to the Reef Bill highlighted specifically that: ‘the Queensland economy would be quite negatively impacted if the focus on improvement of reef water quality led to a significant reduction in the productivity and size of the State’s sugar industry, and agriculture more broadly’

ASMC further adds that Labor’s laws and regulatory approach could have “…far reaching and disastrous impact from an economic, social and environmental perspective.”

As I mentioned Mr Speaker, nobody wants to see our wonder of the world – the Great Barrier Reef – come under threat. But, what we do what to see is the Labor government making evidence based decisions. After all, these changes will affect the lives of hundreds, just in my region alone.

Our local canegrowers groups are rightly concerned that the proposed new reef regulations are based on statements that have not been quality checked and Bundaberg Canegrowers Manager Dale Holliss is asking for this legislation to be deferred until the underlying science on which these regulations are based on is checked through the establishment of an independent office of science quality assurance. Dale believes this is a fundamental and reasonable request by farmers and I agree.

It’s is not just Bundaberg Canegrowers who oppose these unfair reef laws, Labor has been met with huge backlash and protest from industry groups including AgForce, the Australian Banana Growers Council, Growcom, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation, the Burnett Mary Regional Group and even their very own MP from Mackay!

In addition to state-wide concerns regarding Labor’s failure to ensure the science has been quality assured, farmers in Bundaberg were genuinely blindsided by the reforms. Our region falls within the Burnett Mary Catchment, an area which has been exempt from the implementation of previous legislation similar in nature. This is because of our Southern location and distance from the Great Barrier Reef.

Mr Speaker, if you haven’t been to Bundaberg, I strongly recommend it. We are truly lucky to live in an absolutely pristine part of the world, with Fraser, Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave islands right on our doorstep.

At a recent Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Lady Musgrave Experience owner Brett Lakey talked about our local reef and it’s untouched, flawless condition. He talked about their Eye on the Reef Program they are working on for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and told everyone they’re seeing new corals and new growth and that our reef is looking beautiful. He also talked about these reef regulations saying that if there is any run-off, it certainly isn’t hurting the reef in this part of the world.

Not only are our local farmers and tourism groups confused by the sudden inclusion of the Burnett Mary Catchment, many are angry they weren’t even given the opportunity for proper consultation, with Labor giving them just two weeks to contribute their submissions. The lack of community consultation seems to becoming a theme with the Labor Government.

The LNP is the only party that will ensure our farmers always get a fairer reef regulations deal, with a proper consultation process that actually listens and considers the real impact on farmers and their surrounding communities.

After hearing and listening to Queensland’s farming communities, the LNP has proposed three significant amendments to this bill. The first seeks to remove the overreaching provision that enables the government to mandate the collection of any data relating to the production, manufacture, distribution, supply or use of any agricultural ERA product, fertiliser product or agriculture chemical.

The second seeks to require all standards, minimum and best management practice programs to be prescribed by regulation rather than being set by an unelected department chief executive.

And, the third, which is vital for my region of Bundaberg, seeks to introduce a phase-in period of 10 years for the Burnett Mary catchment, set at the same timeframe as the other regulated regions have had since regulations were introduced in 2009. That is only fair.

Queensland farmers deserve so much better and the LNP won’t stand by idly while the anti-regions Labor Government attacks our farmers and our communities. There is no reason Labor can’t support local jobs, local farmers and protect the reef at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one or the other and that is why I oppose this bill.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

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