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Land clearing agreement must pass Prime Minister's own tests.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON SIMON CREAN MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENT KELVIN THOMSON MP

Land clearing agreement must pass Prime Minister’s own tests

Labor’s Budget Reply last week committed a Crean Labor Government to a halt to large-scale and indiscriminate land clearing.

It is now up to the Prime Minister to ensure that his own repeated election commitments to protecting native vegetation are met during negotiations to bring land clearing under control in Queensland.

John Howard promised to deliver on landclearing in 1996 and again in 1998 - and failed.

He has repeatedly refused to work with the states to make good on his promise, preferring instead to play politics against the states.

Labor has acknowledged that any national agreement to halt land clearing must be done in co-operation with the states.

The decision by Premier Peter Beattie to announce a moratorium on new clearing permits for Queensland now gives Mr Howard the opportunity to finally deliver on his 1996 election commitment to reverse ‘the decline of native vegetation’.

Labor has often highlighted the unacceptably high levels of clearing in Australia and the impacts it has on declining biodiversity, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and salinity.

Halting land clearing is one of the most cost effective ways of addressing these issues and given the massive underspending in the environment portfolio, there is no excuse for not tackling it.

Any agreement must therefore make significant progress towards reversing the decline in the quality and extent of native vegetation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting Australia’s unique biodiversity.

It is time for John Howard to show some leadership on land clearing and work with Premier Beattie to achieve a lasting agreement on land clearing that will benefit all Australians.

Just as only Labor will save Medicare, only Labor will halt indiscriminate land clearing, tackle salinity and save our rivers.

Brisbane 21 May 2003