By Claire Boughey
Queensland farmers assembled outside Parliament House in Brisbane this morning following months of social media campaigning to fight against the new proposed vegetation management laws.
Farmers from around the state have been sharing their stories via social media in the hope of educating the public and gaining support for today’s rally.
A video highlighting the impact the proposed legislation would have on family farms has had more than 100,000 views in under a week.
Cattle producer and key figure behind the social media campaign, Josie Angus, said she was proud of the message the industry is communicating.
“Producing a true story was very much for me about how do we get pride back into our industry… we’ve been under attack for so long,” she said.
“I think we were lucky we had people who were passionate and who understood the topic.”
A state-wide petition opposing the proposed laws launched on the April 13 and has gained 17,500 signatures in 77 days.
Sponsoring member for the petition and state member for Warrego, Anne Leahy said the most important aspect of the fight has been delivering the facts.
“We thought we’d get out there and get the facts out there… and try to make sure people know there are two sides to this story,” she said.
“God knows what the price of a leg of lamb will cost if these guys can’t continue breeding.”
The petition will be given to Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington today.
How did it all start?
Charleville grazier, Scott Sargood said he was passionate about opposing the laws, but was unsure of how to do it.
“Well my wife and kids said well dad, if you want to do something we’ll get one of those public Facebook page things and you can just tell everyone like that,” he said.
“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at the time.”
Mr Sargood said the biggest hurdle for gaining support for legislative reform was a lack of education.
“We mostly tried not to be political we tried to engage everyone… we’ve tried to do the education thing,” he said.
“We could have reached more people if we had more money but I’m not flushed with money… we had a lot of trouble reaching the people in the city.
“We were stuck on 9,500 [signatures] and then it reached the city and we got 7,000 votes in a week.
“The people in the city… it’s just they don’t know.”
Queensland Conservation Council has criticised the Agforce led social media push, claiming the latest video was fraudulent and was not filmed in Queensland.
Dear @zonca @reblev @SteveAustinABC – this AgForce backed video is a fraud, it’s neither from “true” nor made in Qld! We will be saying more later today. Our own short video on land clearing has had a total of 400,000 genuine Qld views across platforms: https://t.co/QxGP1VgEaY https://t.co/Jg0P70HIEi
— QLD Conservation (@QLDConservation) April 29, 2018
The group is in strong support of the new laws, saying via Twitter the rate of current land clearing was destructive to wildlife and was placing the Great Barrier Reef at risk.
Stronger land clearing laws are not “an attack on farmers” but rampant clearing in Queensland is unquestionable destructive to wildlife, habitats, GBR and the climate. Ag productivity did not suffer when we had stronger laws. Laws will not stop all Ag development #qldpol #auspol https://t.co/HSi4P8jf4k
— QLD Conservation (@QLDConservation) May 1, 2018
What are the proposed new laws?
The bill introduced by Resource Minister Anthony Lynham, which sets out how farm land will be cleared and protected, will be debated in parliament this week.
Under the news laws, graziers can only clear 50 metre strips of trees and will be required to leave 75 metres of trees standing.
Farmers will also be unable to clear any regrowth that has been standing for more than 15 years.
Development applications will also need to be submitted for some extensive land clearing and harvesting.
Mr Sargood said the process would be too expensive as the specialist help required will cost up to $10,000.
The bill was developed using State-wide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) data and imagery.
Recent data shows there was a rise of 33 per cent in land clearing in 2015-16, with some of the highest rates seen in Great Barrier Reef catchment areas.
Parties opposing the amendments have slammed SLATS imagery, claiming it fails to differentiate between types of vegetation.
During the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee hearings Mr Guy Newell called out the government for falsifying information.
“Less than 0.23 per cent of Queensland’s land area was cleared in 2015-16 and that two-thirds of this vegetation management was carried out to control regrowth and other routine farm maintenance tasks such as removing invasive weeds; constructing fences, pipelines and roads,” he said.