Saturday, June 1, 2013


The Australian on-line carried the following report by Greeg Roberts June 01, 2013 12:00AM -

Campbell Newman's LNP bulldozing pre-election promise illustrated with a phtoogrpah of Joh Bjelke-Petersen clearing land on his property in the 1940s: see -

MEASURES being implemented in Queensland by Premier Campbell Newman amount to the greatest rollback of environmental protection in Australian political history.

A small coterie of Nationals in the Liberal National Party government ministry, backed by the LNP's Nationals-dominated organisational wing, is overseeing the systematic dismantling of key environmental laws. Newman, supposedly a Liberal moderate, is turning a blind eye to the Nationals' escapades in the interests of maintaining LNP unity.

The passage of the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Bill undermines Labor's tree-clearing laws, opening up two million hectares of bushland to the bulldozers. The consequences will include loss of biodiversity across the state, further shrinkage of remnant areas of native vegetation and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Newman broke a pre-election promise to keep the laws. Vegetation once protected can now be cleared if land is deemed of "high agricultural value": an open-ended definition. The protection of regrowth vegetation has been dispensed with. It is easier to bulldoze bushland along watercourses. If landholders clear specially protected vegetation, the onus of proof is reversed so they can merely plead ignorance to avoid prosecution.

Before Labor's laws were enacted in 2006, Queensland had one of the world's highest land-clearing rates; those days are returning, although there is less bushland left to clear.
Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps boasted when foreshadowing the move that he was "taking an axe" to the laws. And so he did: most bushland remaining on private and leased land is up for grabs.

Cripps is one of three right-wing Nationals in the ministry - along with Agriculture Minister John McVeigh and State Development Minister and Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney - who have Newman's blessing for the new environmental agenda. McVeigh opened up 30,000ha a year of state forest for logging.

Logging was stopped by Labor as part of a shift to greater use of plantation timber. The "forest wars" that once were a feature of the political landscape are returning: conservationists are outraged by a logging licence granted over rainforest in Crediton State Forest near Mackay - the habitat of the endangered eungella honeyeater.

Seeney is implementing a development blueprint that includes the scrapping of wild river declarations on Cape York. The government aims to scuttle the proposed World Heritage Listing of Cape York, one of Australia's outstanding wilderness areas. Seeney has declared the area is open for mining and agricultural expansion.

His plans mirror those of Cape York Aboriginal powerbroker Noel Pearson, who argues that environmental protections stymie indigenous economic opportunities. His opponents say preserving wilderness affords greater opportunities. They point to benefits for indigenous communities that result from protecting World Heritage-listed Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta in the Northern Territory.

Murrandoo Yanner is among many indigenous leaders who back wild rivers; they are angered by Pearson's presumption to speak on their behalf.

Cape York aside, declarations of three southwest Queensland rivers in the Lake Eyre Basin are being amended to facilitate mining and agricultural development: guidelines provide "greater efficiencies for petroleum and gas companies". The move is opposed by an alliance of Aboriginal leaders and farmers. They fear the expansion of controversial coal-seam gas projects and cotton farming in a region that is too arid to sustain it, and that Lake Eyre will suffer from the diversion of water that in good years would flow into it.

Newman also is reviewing Labor's national park declarations, signalling that many will be revoked. The protection of national parks is supposed to be set in stone, otherwise there is no point in having them. Queensland's already small national park estate will contract, and in the process the sanctity of national parks is ditched.

Newman has bowed to the Nationals' demands to allow grazing in national parks - a move with potentially serious consequences for the fragile ecology of arid zone parks. He insists this will save the lives of starving cattle, but they will be slaughtered soon in abattoirs anyway; the objective of graziers is to fatten cattle to boost financial returns, not to save their lives.

A handful of Liberal moderates in the LNP cabinet harbour reservations about the rollback. However, LNP unity is Newman's paramount concern, at the price of caving into the Nationals on environmental (and a raft of social) policies.

History repeats itself: as with former state Coalition governments before the Liberals and Nationals merged in 2008, weak-kneed Liberals are browbeaten into submission by Nationals.

Newman's environmental agenda is more destructive than that of former National Party premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who at least protected national parks and launched initiatives to preserve the wilderness values of Cape York. Newman has signalled that 12.5million ha of land under government control is under review, with assurances only that "pristine" areas will be protected.

For all his defects, Bjelke-Petersen kept an environmental leash on extremists in the Nationals' ranks. Not so Newman. Now it is open slather.

On 27 May 2013, Campbell Neuman sent the follwoing letter to GECKO:

I think the hand written text reads: Just for the avoidance of doubt I made a commitment to retain the Vegetation Management Act - it has been retained and there will be no return to the bad old days of broad scale land clearing.

No worries? He may have kept the Act, but he has changed it! Is it just all too clever? Terms like 'the bad old days' and 'broad scale' are vague enough to cover anything.

Neuman has a habit of scribbling asides at the end of letters. Is it an attempt to clarify the spin that even he cannot believe: 'just for the avoidance of doubt'? I received correspondece from him with an enigmatic political theory scribbled after the signature that said something like:  'It's not about equity; it is democracy.'

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