MOTIONS: Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation
I was most impressed to see the passion shown by the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities on this issue of cattle grazing in the Australian alps. I look forward to him showing exactly the same passion and commitment when he brings about a triple-bottom-line approach in the Murray-Darling Basin plan and ensures that we have social, economic and environmental outcomes considered in any water policy in this nation.
He showed a lot of passion today. I look forward to him showing the same passion on that issue.
This disallowance motion comes about because, as is evident, the Greens are running the show. Labor might be in power but the Greens are running the show. The cattle will not be tearing up the bush as Labor and the Greens would have people believe. The Greens would like to see the national parks locked up. They are anti everything Australians cherish about the great outdoors. If the Greens get away with this and our national parks are locked up they will be left for feral animals to rule and noxious weeds to take over. With all the litter left lying around it would take just one spark for Black Saturday—those terrible, dreadful, horrific Victorian bushfires—to be repeated, and no-one wants to see that. The Greens, and others, are opposed to grazing but grazing reduces the litter load. Grazing reduces the risk of terrible bushfires. This disallowance motion is necessary because the Greens are running the show. Stockmen have grazed cattle in the Victorian alpine country for decades—more than 150 years. They have managed the high country ecosystems over this period. Only recently has it been decided that grazing should not continue—and why? Because we have a green agenda running this country. This alpine country was open up by stout-hearted stockmen, the mighty men of the Snowy River, on their horses. Now the brumbies run free, and I have no doubt the Greens want to get rid of them too.
This issue has been very much in the news since 2005 when the Bracks Labor government banned cattle grazing in Victoria's Alpine National Park in response to ongoing lobbying from environmental groups. The ban was overturned in January 2011 when the Baillieu coalition government, newly elected by the people—and this was very much an issue at the forefront of that election—reintroduced cattle to the estate for a short-term grazing trial, the first annual stage of a planned five-year project designed to ascertain whether grazing lowers bushfire risk by reducing fuel loads. The move attracted the ire of the minister at the table, Minister Burke, who pushed a special regulation through federal parliament to prevent the Victorian government from allowing cattle to re-enter for the second year of the trial. At the same time, the minister wrote to his state counterparts advising that the federal government was seeking greater control of Australia's 500 national parks, which are currently controlled by state governments. Citing the devastating nature of bushfires, the Victorian government asked the federal government to reconsider the importance of the trial as a bushfire mitigation tool. The federal minister responded by saying the move would have a 'clearly unacceptable' impact on the National Heritage values of the park estate. The minister's actions are based on a green desire to lock up vast tracts of country and to return them to complete wilderness. Mark Coleman, a third generation mountain cattleman and president of the Mountain Cattlemens Association of Victoria, said:
The concept may work in a rain forest in the Amazon or somewhere, where nature will take its course, but not here where I am standing in Victoria which is one of the most bushfire prone areas of the world.
Aboriginal people have managed the alpine landscape with firestick farming for tens of thousands of years and mountain cattlemen have continued similar management practices by burning patches of country every autumn. Cattlemen took a $100 million hit last year from Labor's live cattle export fiasco. They do not need to keep taking green hits from this government. Particularly in this, the Australian Year of the Farmer, farmers do not need to continue to be deterred by this government.
The member for McEwen speaks of bushrangers. Had a certain MP on that side of the House said 'Bail up! There will be a carbon tax under the government I lead', maybe—just maybe—we would not be having this discussion this morning.