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Productivity Commission draft report on biodiversity laws: written by farmers for farmers?

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats Spokesperson on Environment

December 4, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/ 883

Productivity Commission Draft Report on Biodiversity Laws: Written By Farmers For Farmers?

Australian Democrats’ Leader and Environment spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, today described the Productivity Commission draft report into Native Vegetation and Biodiversity Regulations as “biased”.

“The draft report released by the Productivity Commission today lacks balance and merely promotes the National Party’s property rights agenda,” Senator Bartlett said.

“While there are some valid findings and recommendations in the report, including the lack of clarity over the circumstances under which farmers need to get permission to clear their land, the draft report overall is extremely disappointing.”

Senator Bartlett said a draft recommendation that the Government had to buy back land, pay compensation or incentives to farmers to achieve wider environmental benefits such as minimising greenhouse emissions or protecting biodiversity was straight out of the National Party’s policy handbook.

“Adjustment assistance should only be extended to land holders when native vegetation and biodiversity regulations severely curtail land use.

“But to suggest the farmers should get a payout every time the Government wants to restrict clearing - even for small pockets of land which are environmentally significant - is ridiculous.

“Surely, it is not unreasonable to expect farmers, just as there is an expectation on urban dwellers, to contribute to saving the environment.”

Senator Bartlett also criticised the Productivity Commission’s finding that it was inefficient and ineffective for farmers to be required to get a permit every time they wanted to clear land.

“Regulating land clearing is essential. The rates of land clearing in Australia over the past decade have been astounding - in Queensland alone around 400,000 hectares were cleared each year between 1991 and 2001.

“Does the Productivity Commission really believe these rates of clearing can be kept under control with voluntary programs and market-based mechanisms? Without strict controls on land clearing, we are going to watch the rapid demise of our natural heritage.”

Senator Bartlett said he would be making an additional submission to the Productivity Commission in an attempt to ensure the final report was more balanced and recognised the vital role of appropriate native vegetation and biodiversity laws.

For interview with Senator Bartlett, please call Katrina Beikoff on 0419 867 649