2008 AGM & Conference St George
Property Rights Australia’s Annual Conference, held on Sunday 29th June, called on Prime Minister Rudd and the Federal Government to stop and think before rushing into any Emissions Trading Scheme or any form of climate change scheme tax on Australia’s agricultural industries.
PRA Chairman John Purcell said, “any talk of trading or tax is premature. There are no real indications that the world’s worst polluters intend to act positively at this time.”
“The PRA Conference accepts the principle of true science in these matters but points out the whole global warming debate has created a new industry of ‘experts’ with its share of carpet-baggers,” said Mr. Purcell.
Australia’s agricultural industries are tired of carrying the load on behalf of Australia for this movement as we have done for the life of the Kyoto Protocol which was agreed upon in December 1997. This was closely followed by vegetation management control legislation across our country from 1999.
The following is a copy of the Chairman's Report delivered by John Purcell on 29th June 2008 at the Balonne Skill Centre, St George.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for travelling to St. George. Thank you for your courage to stand and be counted against oppressive and flawed legislation brought down, not based on science, but based on political expediency.
This legislation, the Vegetation Management Act 1999 and the Water Act 2000, are acts aimed at the farming sector. These acts when linked to existing legislation remain as a blot on the history of Queensland and other states.
Above all, we have seen the implementation of the VMA and the Water Act where untrained Public Servants were employed in a role similar to that seen in Europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Suddenly individuals who had never experienced real power became powerful overnight and this went to the heads of many. One day a detailed and accurate history against this draconian and needless period will be written.
In the meantime the role of Property Rights Australia and similar groups will be to stand their ground and fight against this period of shame. Today it is my purpose to reflect on the past briefly, to consider the present and to crystal-ball the future.
Behind the current situation stands the growth of the environment movement in this country and many other nations, e.g. Rio Conference and the Kyoto Protocol which are both pillars of the movement.
Environmental reform in its pure form is a good and desirable goal. However, as in most movements, the extreme sector gets on the bandwagon and distorts and muddies the waters. Politicians of all persuasions sniff the breeze and most join the pack for political reasons; the true science falls by the wayside.
Returning to the spawning of the VMA and other legislation, let us reflect on the growth of the movement in Queensland and Australia.
Senator Hill, Environment Minister in the Howard Government, attended and supported the Kyoto Protocol; however, the Howard Government did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Instead the Federal Government chose to comply with the Protocol while not being a signatory.
This action caused problems for the Federal Government, “what can we do?” All realise that Greenhouse Gas Emissions are generated by coal mining, transport, including aviation, and powerhouses.
All of the above are key industries and therefore most difficult to manage or reform or restructure.
The Kyoto clock was ticking. The Howard Government turned to the soft target—the farming sector and its natural and necessary land clearing program to enable productivity gains, better returns to the individual farmer, food and fibre for our nation and major export earnings.
The decision was taken. The campaign began targeting the farming community, certainly not the real culprits—all too hard.
The Howard Government sought the support of the states. As always the approach contained an inducement/a carrot. In Queensland’s case I have a document aimed at ceasing land clearing on freehold land. This was signed by Howard, Hill and Anderson and accepted by the Borbidge Government and duly signed by Queensland.
Recently former Treasurer Costello spoke out on what a good move this was.
Suddenly our industry became ‘environmental vandals’ who had to be stopped—enter the VMA.
Turning to today, what is the situation? Very many farming families are lamenting the loss of rights to develop their country and upgrade their business.
Many recall confrontation between themselves and DNR Compliance Officers. Many recall prosecution and hefty fines. Many were forced to plead guilty to a crime they did not commit. The few who fought the Government with mixed results must be commended for having the courage and the resources. As we are very well aware the fight goes on. There is much to confront.
Finally, I turn to some of the day by day impediments we all face in running our business as farmers.
Global warming and climate change
· Has spawned emission trading;
· Who knows the final outcome?
· Where will the farming sector be?
· Supposedly some three million blue-collar workers will have to be retrained as ‘green’ collar—target date 2015;
· Increasing costs generally such as power/fuel;
· Carbon trading—where are we being led?
As an aside, a Merino group is to produce a ‘carbon neutral shirt’ and will action environmental changes. However, the spokesperson said farmers will have to be cautions or they will have “no room for their sheep”?
Crime and Misconduct Commission
· Appeals to the CMC prove to be flawed, e.g. complaints against Department of Natural Resources and Water are referred to—you guessed it—the Department of Natural Resources.
· In a high profile case Court Transcripts record statements that appear to be perjury.
The following explanations by those who were referred to the CMC—they make good reading:
The CMC urgently must be restructured to be independent, stand-alone and staffed by experts with no connection to the Public Service.
Freedom of Information
Government has announced a review:
· The current situation sees the local department decide on what should be released;
· This progresses to Brisbane which once more views the file
(Freedom of Some Information)
In cases where landholders opt for an Internal Review of any departmental decisions they see a referral to the same department, e.g. Biloela to Rockhampton, Rockhampton to Mackay. You can guess the outcome.
· The days of a fair or professional land valuation system are gone;
· No longer a property visit to see the facts on the real situation, rather reliance on satellite imagery—yes, the same tool used in vegetation mapping and its flawed technology;
· The normal conference with DNR personnel is largely denied—every person who wishes a conference must be granted their wish;
· The valuation process must be removed from DNR to a stand-alone authority which must be accountable and transparent;
· No longer should DNR set valuations to generate funds for their own use.
· The situation is out of control. My immediate neighbour has 11,000 acres with an unimproved capital value on his land of $5,000,000.
I am very familiar with this land having a 30-year lease in partnership with my brother Bill, only to see it resumed under the Brigalow Scheme. The block was watered by a seasonal water hole, had nil improvements, the land was thick scrub with some semi-open Box flats. While the block now has a small access to the Isaac River it also has flood problems.
The foregoing is the description of the unimproved capital value of the land today—certainly not $5 million!
· The land rental on leasehold land has been a case of self-inflicted wounds;
· ‘The industry’ agreed to an annual 10% rental rise—one wonders;
· Renewal of leases will be covered by a later speaker.
Compulsory Shire Amalgamation
· All about power and control;
· All about politics;
· Little about the well-being of ratepayers—wait until you get your next Rate Notice!
It is my personal view that the state ownership of water and the consequent sale by auction of a natural resource will prove to be a magnet to speculators. As a result the genuine farmer/irrigator will be priced out of the market, e.g. oil.
As the eternal optimist I see a better and brighter future for the farming community. There will be recognition of the contribution of farms in providing food and fibre to the world.
Food riots are common in less-favoured countries. If the prophets of doom are correct the ever-increasing world population, linked to longer life spans, could cause famine.
Australia and particularly Queensland have the potential of increasing food products. We will also see the VMA withdrawn and the best of our land, now shut down, will be required to feed a hungry world.
In conclusion, I thank the PRA membership for its persistence and genuine support.
Thank you to PRA Board Members and finally a big ‘thank you’ to my lovely wife Mary for her ever available assistance and advice.
“STAND YOUR GROUND”