Queensland Environment Minister Leanne Enoch.
Queensland Environment Minister Leanne Enoch.

Minister rejects AgForce's 'secret deal' suggestion

ENVIRONMENT Minister Leeanne Enoch has rejected as "absurd" suggestions by AgForce the Queensland Government manufactured a "secret deal" with activist groups to enact "radical environment policies" ahead of the last state election.

AgForce yesterday released to the NewsMail documents relating to a Right to Information search which the farming advocacy group said raised concerns that the government had struck a pre-election deal with environment groups.

The move comes as AgForce and other farming lobby groups such as Canegrowers clash with the government over its consultation process for the introduction of proposed reef regulations.

Earlier this week the region's peak body for natural resource management, Burnett Mary Regional Group, backed concerns of Bundaberg region cane farmers relating to the Reef Protection Bill and called for the government to delay its implementation until a scientific review was conducted.

AgForce claims these laws and the Vegetation Management Act resemble parts of submissions made by the World Wildlife Fund and Get Up to former Environment Minister Steven Miles ahead of the 2017 November state election.

"We have suspected for some time that the government is not interested in the views of farmers, even on legislation that so deeply affects them, their families and their businesses," AgForce chief executive officer Michael Guerin said.

"This week, we are again asking for sensible changes to the badly thought out Reef Protections Bill to make it effective, workable and fair to farmers," Mr Guerin said.

"However, again, our calls are falling on deaf ears; we are struggling to understand why it has been so hard to get a hearing for our rational advice.

"A cosy deal between Labor and the environmentalists would explain a lot."

The date on the cover page of the RTI documents is Wednesday, June 21, 2017, more than five months before the election.

The documents also raise environmental concerns for the Adani mine project but not all of the requests have been actioned.

But Ms Enoch dismissed Mr Guerin's claim, saying the government went to the past two elections with clear public commitments to reintroduce vegetation management legislation and regulations to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

"These commitments were made in public documents that were widely canvassed during the elections, so it is absurd to suggest that subsequent legislation is the result of some kind of secret deal," she said.

Ms Enoch said the reef legislation before parliament was a response to the 2016 recommendations from the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce. "Extensive consultation has been conducted on reef regulations ... including a discussion paper in March 2017 and a Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement in September 2017.

"The government has also been closely engaging with peak farming and agriculture bodies through a dedicated advisory group that includes AgForce and Canegrowers, which has been providing input..."

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