SUBJECTS: Queensland Defence land acquisition back down, Government dysfunction.
TUESDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 2017
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: I congratulate Queensland farmers who have had a massive victory today. They have run a hard campaign and have forced the Government to back down and declare there will be no forced land acquisitions to accommodate the expansion of two training ranges in Queensland. It doesn’t change the fact the Government lied to those communities. They deliberately hid the expansion plans from the community prior to the election just to win an election. It is clear in May last year, they knew the investment by the Singaporeans would involve massive land expansion and therefore massive land acquisitions. They now need to apologise and of course commit themselves to a more transparent process because they will of course continue to pursue land, but only on a voluntary basis. No doubt graziers will feel under pressure, as they are encircled, to sell their land to accommodate Defence.
Now it’s time the Government made out the national security case for the expansion. Is it only for the Singaporeans or is it also for the Australian Defence Force? If it goes to the heart of our national security, tell us how and convince us that it worth acquiring so much prime agriculture land and taking that land out of the food supply chain. No matter which way the land is acquired, this process will take up to 60,000 head of cattle out of the beef supply chain. That is going to have a massive impact on the economy in the regions directly affected and jobs right throughout Queensland including places like meat abattoirs. The Government today before Question Time, very importantly, has attempted to clean up its mess and we welcome this very significant back down. It’s a back down from a policy Barnaby Joyce said only last week did not exist by the way. We welcome the back down in any case. It is a huge backflip given what they have been saying, but they need now to make the case and to explain to the community and be upfront with these communities affected about why it is that we need to take so much prime agricultural land out of the food supply chain? And of course guarantee people won’t be unduly pressured and will be offered a fair price if they want to voluntarily sell their land.
JOURNALIST: Have you got a shortlist going of what else you’d like them to back down on in agriculture?
FITZGIBBON: I don’t have that many fingers on my hand to count the errors of this Government’s ways. Obviously this is a dysfunctional government. It is a government in crisis. We have seen exhibit a from Cory Bernardi only minutes ago. We need to get the public debate back on health, education and jobs and get rid of all these shocking distractions that are completely taking the attention off this government and denying the parliament the opportunity to debate the things that really matter.