Fury for graziers after mulga law change voted down

CHANGES aimed at cutting red tape and providing more transparency for graziers pushing Mulga have been voted down by state parliament.

The Vegetation Management (Clearing for Relevant Purposes) Amendment Bill was brought forward by Member for Traeger Robbie Katter on Tuesday.

Since his amendment's rejection, Mr Katter has launched an offensive on Labor MPs in the parliament, accusing the party of 'betraying' graziers and landholders.

"As usual, the state government mischeviously tried to make out that the bill was advocated for broadscale tree clearing," Mr Katter said.

The objectives of the amendment were stated to remove 'grazing activities' from the definition of 'high value agricultural clearing' under the original bill, and create an obligation for the government to provide an explanation when it rejected land clearing applications.

Mr Katter told parliament how current legislation restricts graziers pushing mulga on their properties.

"The regimen around mulga is so tight that people will put in an application and be told 'you knocked that over five years ago so you can't touch that - you must touch this bit now'," he said

"Say you are carrying 500 head on your station. You might have rain in the bottom paddock of your property and have 500 head on the dry section where you are approved for mulga.

"You will use all of the mulga you have been approved for to try and get a certain benefit, whereas if you have had rain down the bottom of your property you might need only half that quantity of mulga.

"Deregulating the mulga, especially when there is pressure on it, can lead to less usage of it because you do not need to use as much if you are using it more efficiently.

"But that is not accepted down here, where people are not on the ground … no one trusts the landholder to manage these things."


The problem with Katter's bill

Mr Katter's push for change did receive support from some members of parliament, including Warrego MP Ann Leahy.

But the she was quick to point out that the amendment had some shortcomings: namely the fact that it was based on legislation that is no longer in use.

The current legislation, Vegetation Management Act 1999, applies to the clearing of all vegetation in a grassland regional ecosystem.

However, the Act in its current form does not mention 'high value agricultural clearing' - the sections Mr Katter was trying to change had been removed from the legislation in 2018, as Ms Leahy explained.

"The thing with Robbie's bill is that when Labor amended the Act in 2018, they removed 'high value agriculture', and 'irrigated high value agriculture'," she said.

"His private members bill is trying to amend something that is no longer there, and is actually from two governments ago.

"The changes by the Labor government basically stripped 'high value agriculture' from the legislation, and because of that, you can't make an application to clear that land anymore."

In parliament, Ms Leahy made the case that Mr Katter's legislation falls short for graziers trying to not just feed cattle, but effectively manage their land - both in drought and good seasons.

She said her LNP shadow cabinet was on the record as having a comprehensive policy, which they had tabled in 2018.

"The LNP has proposed that high-value and irrigated high-value properly made applications can be assessed against guidelines developed in genuine consultation with industry," she said.

"Furthermore, the LNP proposed a deemed approval process, giving even more certainty and a streamlined approval process to landholders who make these applications.

"The LNP had in place a workable fodder harvesting code when in government, and that worked during drought periods and when there was no drought. Why? Because landholders need to be able to deal with the thickening of vegetation.

"They do not necessarily have the resources during drought periods to do that and, further, drought is not a time when they can re-establish grass growth in areas being rehabilitated from vegetation thickening.

"Landholders need to be able to harvest and thin mulga and manage its incredible ability to thicken.

"They say that if you take down one mulga tree 10 others will come to its funeral - and that is so correct when you see what is happening across my electorate."

Ms Leahy told The Western Times the LNP is intending to bring vegetation management back to the chamber when the party is ready.

"We will be pushing (for it)," she said.

"We are still working on our ag policy at the moment, but have the ground rules of what we have already put forward.

"It may even go further, so we are working our way through that plan."

A spokeswoman for Mr Katter confirmed he intends to bring the private members bill back to parliament "in some form" after the October state election.

Charleville Western Times

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