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18 February, 2021

Qld Government slammed for ignoring farmers' Great Barrier Reef efforts

North Queensland-based Senator, Susan McDonald, has congratulated the state’s farmers after the latest water quality report card showed significant improvement, and slammed the Queensland Government for ramming through tougher reef regulations in 2019.

Senator McDonald was instrumental in establishing a Senate Inquiry last year into the evidence used by the Queensland Government to impose harsh water quality targets on cane and cattle farmers.

The Inquiry found runoff from land mainly affected just 3% of the total Great Barrier Reef area, and that the State Government had ignored the fact farmers were already altering their practices to reduce environmental impacts in imposing harsher restrictions.

Senator McDonald said farmers deserved the highest praise following news on Wednesday that nitrogen runoff into the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon had dropped 25.5% since 2013.

But she took aim at the Queensland Government’s decision to impose even tougher rules on farmers when the latest water quality results showed improvement had been happening for years.

“This drop in nitrogen runoff didn’t happen overnight, and it has to be pointed out that the results are from 2019, the same year Labor decided to ignore evidence and submissions from farming groups to make agriculture the scapegoat for Reef water quality,” she said.

“This report is proof of what farmers had been saying all along: that they had been improving land use methods without the need for draconian new laws.

“We now have confirmation of what the Senate Inquiry found which was that the new laws wouldn’t have a significant impact on water quality because the work is already being done.

“It’s clear that the old rules – while still onerous and overly restrictive – were working when applied in conjunction with the industry-led management plans of Canegrowers Queensland and AgForce.

“The most recent legislative changes are now revealed as unnecessary overreach that ignored what farmers were saying.

“This report is compelling enough for the State Labor Government to repeal the ridiculous new restrictions and trust that farmers are good custodians of the land and are quite capable of improving their practices without being demonised as Reef killers.”

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