Tree laws slammed

By Country News

The Federal Government has hit out at Queensland’s proposed laws to restrict tree-clearing, saying it would be devastating to farmers.

However, a new report from the Climate Council has found the laws are urgently needed to address climate change.

The Queensland Labor Government is preparing to pass legislation to restrict the amount of land-clearing in the state, after regulations were relaxed under the previous Liberal National Party Government.

A parliamentary committee has recommended the legislation be passed, but has made several recommendations, including giving landholders support in navigating the application process to clear land, as well as investigating the establishment of indigenous community use areas.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the laws were an election promise, and her government would pass them by the end of May.

‘‘The majority of farmers are doing the right thing, but we have seen very high rates of land clearing in this state and it’s got to stop,’’ Ms Palaszczuk said last week.

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has weighed in on the issue, saying the proposed laws would ‘‘criminalise’’ farmers.

Mr Canavan said, in particular, provisions to remove land being classified as high value agriculture as a reason for land clearing would have significant impact on farming.

‘‘This is another example of where an ideological stance by a state government can stymie national ambition to further enhance the Australian economy and further develop northern Australia in particular,’’ he said.

His concerns were echoed by farming lobby group AgForce, which said farmers opposed to the laws who gave submissions to the committee were ignored.

A new report from the Climate Council shows an area of Queensland bushland more than seven times the size of Brisbane was cleared between 2012 and 2016.

International climate scientist Will Steffen said the findings showed the need for greater governmental regulation of land clearing.

‘‘Just in the last year we’ve had 19million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide, from the clearing of Queensland’s forests,’’ Prof Steffen said.

‘‘So it’s very important that we tighten these laws up so that not only to we reduce emissions from fossil fuels but also from clearing.’’