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Cattle grazing ban to be tested parliament

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January 4, 2012

The Gillard Government’s ban on cattle grazing in the High Country will be tested in Federal Parliament in coming months after two Gippsland MPs moved to overturn a decision made by the Environment Minister Tony Burke.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland and Liberal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent lodged a disallowance motion which the government must bring to a vote within 15 sitting days (by March 15, 2012).

“Tony Burke moved to ban cattle grazing without any consultation and without giving the Parliament a chance to vote on the issue,” Mr Chester said.

“Instead of the Minister trying to bully the Victorian Government and dictating to the local community from Canberra, this motion provides an opportunity for Members of the House of Representatives to overturn the Minister’s regulation.”

The Victorian Coalition Government reintroduced 400 cattle to previously grazed areas of the Alpine National Park in January this year as a part of a six-year scientific research trial to investigate the impacts of grazing on bushfire fuel reduction.

Before the first phase of the trial was complete, Mr Burke ordered the Victorian Government to remove the cattle. He later gazetted regulations which would prevent the practice without assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBCA).

When the removal was first flagged by the Greens and Labor, the Mountain Cattlemen Association of Victoria launched a petition in support of the trial which was signed by over 1000 Gippslanders.

Mr Chester said the Victorian Government had already indicated that it would refer its trial for EPBCA assessment but the Minister had ignored the advice and was only interested in appeasing the Greens.

“Mr Burke knows the Victorian Government has already committed to referring its fuel reduction research trial for a Federal review under the EPBC Act but he has ignored this advice and imposed the regulation as a political stunt,” Mr Chester said.

“The Minister is now intent on preventing the trial from continuing despite the fact that the Coalition won a clear mandate at the last State Election to reintroduce cattle into the High Country to reduce the risk of bushfires.”

Mr Broadbent said he supported the grazing trial.

“Gippslanders are tired of city-based Greens and Labor MPs making decisions about their lives without any consultation,” Mr Broadbent said.

“We all witnessed the devastating impacts of the Black Saturday bushfires and the high fuel loads in the bush added to the severity of that disaster.

“I support the trial of strategic cattle grazing as one of the tools the Victorian Government can use to reduce the bushfire risk in the high country.

“We need to do everything we can to actively manage our national parks rather than adopt the ‘lock it up and leave it’ model supported by the Greens and Labor.”



President of the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria Mark Coleman recently gave evidence at a public hearing into the alpine grazing petition which supported the Victorian Government’s scientific research trial.

Mr Coleman said people who live around the edge of this massive park know a lot about management and live and work with the reality of fire every summer, with a serious threat being posed this year by increased growth as a result of good rainfall.

“The problem is that decisions of management are influenced by people with other agendas, and those people do not have to live within the park,” Mr Coleman said.

“Minister Burke saw an opportunity and took up the issue for political gain for his government. The very good name and reputation of the cattlemen has been trashed for political advantage.

“This work is about alpine grazing to reduce fuel loads and needs to be done. The politicians and the Greens who oppose this work do not have to live and work here. They do not have to live beside a national park which is not managed well.

“There is prolific growth. It is probably the best growth in my lifetime—and some of the old fellas are saying the same sort of thing.

“In some of those alpine areas where the cattle have been excluded for many, many years, there is grass matted…it is completely matted over and it ends up like a thatched roof. Nothing grows underneath it. You will get a few shoots, and it is turning into monoculture.

“Unless that fuel gets controlled, when the next fire goes through it completely causes a fire so hot that it crowns up into the trees and annihilates whole landscapes.”