Queensland’s tree laws aren’t a ‘free for all’

Opinion: Why we'll get more red tape and interference under re-elected ALP


Opinion
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Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Daniel Wild says the State Government has "no right" to be introduce "draconian regulations" that impede the freedom of farmers to develop their own land.

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Daniel Wild, Institute of Public Affairs

Daniel Wild, Institute of Public Affairs

More red tape, bureaucratic interference, and confiscation of private land is on the cards under a re-elected Palaszczuk government.

The Palaszczuk government has committed to re-introducing native vegetation regulations, which were rejected by the Queensland Parliament last year.

Those changes would reverse the Newman government’s policy that allows farmers to clear high value agricultural land so that land can be put to productive use.

The current native vegetation laws are sensible. They allow farmers to get the most out of their while still requiring farmers to self-assess their activity against codes of conduct to minimise over-clearing.

Some environmentalists claim that there has been a ‘free for all’ of clearing that has taken place since the Newman government introduced the laws in 2013.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. Since the laws were introduced approximately 1 million hectares have been cleared. This represents just a 0.6 per cent increase in agricultural use due to land clearing. And this is an overestimate as some of that land would have been cleared under the pre-Newman laws.

The reason why over-clearing hasn’t occurred is simple: farmers know what they are doing. They know how to get the most out of their land and how to manage it in a sustainable manner. I bet the majority of farmers are deeply offended by the notion that they are somehow ill-equipped to manage their land and need to be told how to do their job by bureaucrats.

The government has absolutely no right to be introducing draconian regulations which impede the freedom of farmers to develop their own land.

As AgForce, the peak body representing Queensland rural producers, was reported as saying in these pages on 1 November, ‘farming families care about their land and know how to manage it responsibly. Farming is a difficult enough job as it is, we don't need politicians adding to the difficulties we face.’

Unfortunately, what is often unsaid in this policy debate is that we aren’t talking about government owned land. We are talking about land privately owned by farmers.

The government has absolutely no right to be introducing draconian regulations which impede the freedom of farmers to develop their own land. Worse, such regulations, by effectively sterilising farm land, reduce property values and can throw families into financial chaos. All because Brisbane-based bureaucrats think they know better than the farmers who have been taking care of their land and providing food for the rest of the state for decades.

The environmentalists who oppose agricultural development can’t grow all of their food in their inner-city apartments. They need our farmers. How would they react if the government constrained their property uses by locking up their spare bedroom without explanation or compensation? Perhaps then, these uninformed activists would get a taste of what farmers have to deal with every day and understand the real consequences of their feel-good, virtue signalling.

The environmentalists who oppose agricultural development can’t grow all of their food in their inner-city apartments.

While green groups complain about tree-clearing, you will never hear them talk about jobs, families, or communities. The Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries industry employs close to 60,000 Queenslanders, contributes around $15 billion to the Queensland economy each year, and supports thousands of families and rural communities. Many of these jobs, families, and communities will be jeopardised under Labor’s proposed changes. Yet what does the Palaszczuk government have to say about them? Nothing, because they simply do not matter to the green left.

Unfortunately, red tape, such as that being proposed by Labor, is one of the biggest impediments to business investment, job creation, and economic growth in Queensland and the rest of Australia. Indeed, red tape costs the Australian economy some $176 billion each and every year in forgone economic output. That is the equivalent to 11 per cent of GDP or $19,300 per household.

If we continue down the road of more red tape, then Australia will be all trees and no jobs. It is imperative that governments at the state and federal level cut red tape to unleash prosperity and allow farmers to get on with farming.

- Daniel Wild is a research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs

The story Queensland’s tree laws aren’t a ‘free for all’ first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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