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Sign the deal: Lees warns farmers.



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Senator Meg Lees

Australian Progressive Alliance Senator for South Australia 22 May 2003

MEDIA RELEASE

Sign the deal - Lees warns farmers

Today's landclearing deal offer of $150 million in Commonwealth and state government funding to Queensland farmers is a generous package which must be accepted, according to Australian Progressive Alliance Senator, Meg Lees.

Senator Lees, who negotiated with the Federal Government in 1999 to set aside $400 million in greenhouse gas abatement funds, part of which was to be used to address Queensland land clearing, said the farmers are very lucky to receive the offer.

“Landclearing rates in Queensland have been an international disgrace for more than a decade,” said Senator Lees.

“In recent weeks, there has been a rapid increase in landclearing applications in Queensland, which led to the decision by the Government to apply a moratorium on further applications.

“Other states have stopped clearing with little compensation and also applied moratoriums soon after tree clearing controls were first raised.

“Such measures could have saved more than two million hectares in Queensland, so on any measure, Queensland's farmers are being exceedingly well treated under this deal.”

Senator Lees said holding out for more would risk the community raising the valid argument that farmers do not have right to impose costs on the whole community through wholesale destruction of the landscape.

“Rising salinity, massive loss of plant and animal species, fouling of waterways and desertification of marginal lands is the legacy we have been left with by the clearing to date,” said Senator Lees.

“Stopping Queensland landclearing is worth 20-30 megatonnes per year of greenhouse gases and is the single biggest individual act Australia can take to rein in our carbon emissions.

“Farmers must realise the game is up. The panic clearing of the last few years while the Commonwealth and State came to the arrangement is over, and they must sign on.

“We will be paying for land degradation for generations,” said Senator Lees.

Senator Lees is meeting conservation groups in order to take their comments on the landclearing package to the Government in the next week.

For comment: Senator Lees 08 8331 8111 Media Requests: Kerrie Thornton 02 6277 3203 or 0438 816 376

www.megsdesk.com