Tuesday, 10 November 2020
I rise to highlight the increasingly virulent attacks being waged on everyday Australians by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature and other extreme environmentalist groups intent on stopping agriculture, fishing, forestry, building dams, recreational parks and anything aimed at improving people's lives. In particular, I would like to point out that too often these groups rely on emotion, loose facts and time-poor journalists to sway public opinion, not to mention the opinions of elected decision-makers in this place and around the country.
I have had enough. I've had enough because of my own experience and the experience of thousands of farmers and fishers right across our great country that bear no resemblance to the toxic, treeless, fishless wasteland that environmental activists say we live in. Children are being taught in schools to accept as indisputable fact that Australia is ripping out trees, poisoning the seas and causing the deaths of millions of animals.
The latest claim being peddled by the WWF is that in the past 10 years, despite being saddled with some of the strictest environmental laws on the planet, Australian farmers have cleared 650,000 hectares, including likely threatened species' habitats. Sadly, the media that breathlessly ran the claims unchallenged didn't list the number of trees that grew and re-grew in that period. According to farmer advocacy Property Rights Australia, the last official Queensland government Statewide Landcover and Trees Study report, known as SLATS, showed that the amount of regrowth was 147 per cent greater than the total area cleared. And let's not forget the 19 million hectares of bush destroyed by fire in 2019-20, thanks largely to clearing and burning off restrictions that allowed dangerous fuel loads to build up. Nor could I find a mention in the article of the innumerable native animals killed daily by feral cats or the destruction of ground-nesting birds and turtles by feral pigs. Both these and many other noxious species, not to mention destructive weeds, thrive in land that farmers aren't allowed anywhere near. There was also no mention of the importance to various animals and ecosystems of open grasslands, a natural phenomenon noted by the early explorers and pastoralists. No; it's only farmers apparently to blame for tree losses and regrowth doesn't count. Nature journal recently reported that world tree cover increased by 2.24 million square kilometres in the past 35 years. Travellers to Cape York report once sweeping views of remote coastland five years ago are now completely obscured by thick and robust tree growth.
Earlier this year, I travelled to Tambo in western Queensland and visited the property of the local mayor. Mayor Martin was doing it tough for many years because wild dogs were killing lambs by the thousands. It wasn't until he and his neighbours installed exclusion fencing that nearly 300 wild dogs were eradicated. Then some amazing things happened. The property went from producing 360 live lambs a year to 4½ thousand. Secondly, the mayor noticed koalas had returned to his property and rare black swans had returned to their dams. He hadn't planted more trees to provide habitats for koalas. He'd simply removed the real cause of their demise—the dogs. This is just one example of farmers expertly managing their land to support their business and the natural environment. To suggest that agriculture is causing wholesale destruction of native animals is a cop-out that doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
In my home region of North Queensland, cane farmers are fighting increasing pressure from groups such as the WWF who have convinced the Queensland Labor government that agriculture is responsible for killing the Great Barrier Reef. But, if you go onto cane farms, you will find farmers spending big money on laser-levelling their land, reducing fertiliser use and applying fertiliser below ground. You will find silt traps and artificial wetlands where all manner of birds and fish thrive. The common theme is that farmers care. In national parks where farmers have been excluded, creeks are overrun by leucaena plants and rubber vines, tilapia are outcompeting native fish and wild pigs run amok, destroying riverbanks and eating the eggs of threatened species. (Time expired)