After months of lies, the Turnbull Government has been caught out hiding its plans to compulsorily acquire land until after the 2016 election.
In an attempt to clean up the mess, today, Defence Minister Marise Payne and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the Government is dropping a policy it said didn’t exist.
The Government consistently said it had no plans to compulsorily acquire farm land in Queensland but it was clear they had begun the process due to landholders in the Marlborough region receiving bullying letters.
On Friday on ABC Radio Barnaby Joyce said in response to whether compulsory land acquisitions would go ahead:
"I've not had one discussion with one person [in Canberra] who's told me that was their intention,”
I've been talking at the highest levels, and obviously if they had said that I would be saying to them that's not the way we're going to operate.
"I don't know whether there ever would be any compulsory acquisitions. At this point of time there is no intention of compulsory acquisitions,” Joyce said.
Yet today on ABC radio today Minister for Defence Marise Payne said:
“We have confirmed today Defence will only purchase land from willing sellers, willing vendors.”
It is clear from the Government’s massive backflip that compulsory land acquisitions were on the table and there is no doubt farmers will continue to feel under pressure to sell. The Government has already bought some land and as they progress, landholders will feel pressure to do the same.
We have met with the people in the Marlborough region and witnessed firsthand their passion for the land and the strength of their community. It is a testament to their tireless efforts that this decision has been reached.
The expansion of Shoalwater Bay is something Labor has taken the Government to task on since Christmas, from our State and Federal Members, to the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten.
In contrast, the floundering Federal Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry spent months in the dark, before sitting on her hands, doing nothing to fight for her constituents. It was only after Labor started applying political pressure that she finally decided to do something.
We are proud we have succeeded in helping the people of Marlborough get compulsory acquisitions off the table. But we know there are a lot more questions that need to be answered:
- What is happening with the socioeconomic report, due mid-year, and the alternative Master Plan expected to be released in February?
- What happens to businesses that will be adversely affected by the expansion and can they expect compensation?
- What happens to land owned by those not wishing to sell that has been surrounded by bought land? Will those unwilling farmers be expected to sell?
- Did Michelle Landry and Marise Payne know there would be compulsory acquisitions before the election?
- If so, did Michelle Landry lie to the people of Capricornia to cling onto her seat, which allowed the Coalition to form Government?
If Landry did know, she’s a liar. If she didn’t know, she’s an incompetent local member. Either way, it’s the people of Central Queensland that suffer.
We are sure that Landry and the rest of the Government thought they could do the bare minimum and then go back to ignoring the Shoalwater Bay expansion.
But Labor will continue to push for answers to these crucial questions.