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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie

Thursday, 22 May 2003

Subject: Moratorium on Land Clearing in Queensland

QUESTION: AgForce has already rejected your proposal for tree clearing as unworkable.

DAVID KEMP: Well I haven't heard any particular comments that AgForce has made since the meeting, but I must say the meeting was a very...

QUESTION: They rejected this, an unworkable proposal.

DAVID KEMP: Well what they've said to us is that they wish to come back with some suggestions as to how the Commonwealth and State objectives can be achieved. And they think they have ways of doing this.

QUESTION: They've just put out a media release saying they...

DAVID KEMP: Well I'm just telling you what they've said to us. They say...

QUESTION: What they said to us is that it's unworkable.

DAVID KEMP: Okay, I'm giving you a new news story then. The new story is that they said to us that they would like to come back to us with some further proposals about how the Commonwealth's greenhouse objectives...

QUESTION: Were they be hasty by describing it now as unworkable.

DAVID KEMP: achieved.

QUESTION: Are they being hasty now by describing it as unworkable?

DAVID KEMP: Well I'm not going to comment because I haven't seen...

QUESTION: They say that the compensation package is woefully inadequate. Is there grounds to actually raise the $130 million package?

DAVID KEMP: Well the package was... the financing package that was put before them was $150 million. That figure is based on analysis that has been done by the Commonwealth science agencies and economic analysis agencies, ABARE, BRS*. And so far as our assessment goes, that package is sufficient to compensate or adjust farmers to assist them to cope with the full economic consequences of the proposal that was outlined...

QUESTION: So they're not justified in having a whinge about the amount of money being put on the table?

DAVID KEMP: Well they may challenge the basis of that, and if they want to say something more to us about us... about that they can. But from our point of view that is a sound and fair basis for determining the size of an adjustment package.

QUESTION: to move on that hundred and fifty, is there any more money there in the pot?

DAVID KEMP: Well we haven't seen any basis for moving from it. In fact, we've commissioned an expert study, which we made available to them this morning, and which I don't think that they would have had, at the moment, time to fully examine. And that study tells us that the compensation and adjustment that is involved in this, the assistance with farm management practices, the assistance for best practice, and identification of best practice, that [inaudible] is adequate to cope with the full economic...

QUESTION: It's quite clear, Dr Kemp, that the situation with remnant and of concern vegetation can't go on, is that right, there's no going back, this is the time now to hammer out a way forward?

DAVID KEMP: It's quite clear that something very substantial must be done to reduce the amount of tree clearing. And that's clear from overriding national interest objectives, it's clear from the point of view of preserving biodiversity in Queensland, it's clear from the point of view of protecting rare and endangered of concern vegetation, and it's clear when we look at the whole issue of salinity. Vegetation plays a very key role in the environment, and there needs to be substantial reduction in the amount of tree clearing that goes on. And the proposal that has been put forward by Queensland that our officials have worked through together, and that was presented to the farming groups this morning addresses that. And would be adequate to achieve the Commonwealth's objectives.

QUESTION: ...timetable on the... getting agreement on this, when would you hope to have the new rules, the new approach in place?

DAVID KEMP: Well we've said to the farming groups this morning, and perhaps I should just go back a step and say what this morning was about. The meeting with the groups AgForce and QFF this morning was to outline to them the proposal that our officials have worked up together to give them an opportunity to consider the proposal and respond to it. What we want is a transparent, open, consultative process on this. And we said to them that if they needed any further technical data that would be necessary to come back to us with comment and response, we'd be happy to provide that. And we understand that this will take a number of weeks for them to form their own assessment, and if they want to make any alternative proposals, to come back with those alternative proposals. We've asked them to come back with an initial response to us by the 29th of May.

QUESTION: Is that enough time, do you think, Dr Kemp? Is that really being fair to them?

DAVID KEMP: Well if you take a period of some six to eight weeks, that's time to receive any further technical data that is required and to formulate any alternative proposals that they want. So we believe that that is a reasonable time, given the importance of this issue.

QUESTION: Dr Kemp, how much of the hundred and fifty million will the Commonwealth be contributing?

DAVID KEMP: Half. It's a split.

QUESTION: Dollar for dollar?

DAVID KEMP: 50-50 split.

QUESTION: Dr Kemp, there was a 1999 DPI report, which hasn't been released, it was taken to Cabinet so it can't be FOI, which estimated that the real compensation would be five hundred million. How can your expert report be so [inaudible] to the DPI report?

DAVID KEMP: Well I can't comment on what was in a DPI report. I know that some quite inflated figures have been canvassed, and I think the basis of those figures has been that some people are thinking that maybe what is involved here is a carbon purchase at some arbitrarily designated international price. Now there is no international price for carbon at the moment, you can't undertake that. But in any case, if one were to provide a package on that basis, it would produce significant windfall gains. What we've sought to do in putting together a very fair package is to look at the economic cost to the individual landholders. And the $150 million funding package that was outlined this morning, in which Queensland and the Commonwealth will contribute half each, is based on our best assessment of a full economic compensation to the fund.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]

PETER BEATTIE: Can I just answer this, Brendan, just quickly? This DPI report, if I recall correctly - and I'm going on memory now, I'm happy to check - when we released our legislation some three years ago, initially, that was raised at that time. That DPI report, if it's the one I'm thinking of - and Damien, you might help me - one, that's out-of-date, it was based on a lot of guesswork, if I recall correctly. The figures of a hundred and fifty million here are based on the latest available scientific mapping, testing, best available information we can get. And nothing's perfect in life, but I'm not going to suggest that it is. But this material and this information, these figures here, are based on science. What be... the DPI recall... - if I recall correctly - was based on a lot of assessments, which have now changed.

QUESTION: Premier are you... Premier...

QUESTION: Why can't you release it to us so that we can [inaudible] too and see what the assumptions are?

QUESTION: Premier, some time ago...

PETER BEATTIE: I've got to go back and check what it is.

QUESTION: Premier, some time ago you said you didn't have any money for further tree clearing controls... How come you've now got seventy-five million?

PETER BEATTIE: I have indicated all the way along through this that we would be prepared to make a contribution. Now Kim, I wouldn't expect... you wouldn't expect me not to try and get the most money I possibly can out of the Commonwealth. You would be very disappointed in me if I didn't do that. And you may recall at one point we were talking about a hundred and three million.

QUESTION: Where did you go wrong?

PETER BEATTIE: Well, we ended up looking at the science, looking at the mapping that Dr Kemp's just talked about. And the reality is a hundred and fifty million is fair. It's based on the science. And the point I made before...

QUESTION: ...the Commonwealth would put in a hundred and ten, where did you get... you get seventy-five, where did you go wrong?

PETER BEATTIE: At the end of all... oh look, at the end of all this, we've ended up with a partnership. I said to you before, Sean, that partnerships are important in this, this is dollar for dollar. Now at the end of the day we'll get the best we possibly can. You can't ask for a fairer partnership than dollar for dollar, and the figure of a hundred and fifty million is based on the latest information, the best information that's ever been available.

QUESTION: Aren't you being a bit stingy, the pair of you?

PETER BEATTIE: Well if that's all it requires, Patrick, why wouldn't we be stingy?

QUESTION: Well Premier, you're basically saying that...

QUESTION: In the meantime, one and a half million hectares of land is being bulldozed [inaudible].

PETER BEATTIE: I'll come back to...

DAVID KEMP: Brendan, before we deal with that, could I just make the general point that it's very important in this to be fair to landholders. I mean this is a very difficult issue for landholders in Queensland. There's no doubt about that. It involves some significant decisions by government and significant management decisions by landholders. The proposal that's been put is one that is seen as being a fair proposal. Now that doesn't mean that landholders are going to immediately say this is the right proposal. And, of course, they haven't done that. What they said is, we'd like to come back, we accept the objective, we accept that there are greenhouse issues involved here, we accept that there are biodiversity issues involved, and we'd like to come back to you with what we think is a better way of dealing that... with that. And we've said, yes, we'd like you to do that. So it's an open process and it's intended to be a fair process. And the basis of figures in the proposal is an analysis which shows that this is, to our satisfaction, that this is fair. Landholders have an opportunity to respond.

PETER BEATTIE: Brendan, you wanted to... I'm sorry, Camille....

QUESTION: Yeah, my question was, you save taxpayers $30 million, which is great, but in the interim between passing the Act and this coming along, approximately one and a half million hectares based on this [inaudible] figures [inaudible] bulldozed. Is that a good trade-off, thirty million...

PETER BEATTIE: There's no trade-off here. We sought to get a hundred and three million, we've ended up with a partnership with the Commonwealth who have contributed seventy-five, and we've put money in. I mean if you want to make a comparison, the comparison to a hundred and three to a hundred and fifty, we're actually putting more money in. I mean a hundred and ten million that we've talked about is in terms of the research and the effort and the support systems that are run by Stephen's department. That's going to continue. All the mapping is still going to continue. What's happened here is we've put more money in, no trade-offs, and the Commonwealth have put seventy-five million in a genuine partnership. Let's be really clear about this. I mean there is regrowth that is going to be cleared. I mean we're talking here about remnant, that's what we're talking about. I mean regrowth is going to be cleared. We're talking about remnant. We're talking about remnant, which includes, of concern and some that's not of concern. You've got endangered, which I talked about until I'm black and blue in the face and bored you all silly, of concern and not of concern. That's what the remnants made up of. Now regrowth is not included in remnant. Now there's always going to be some regrowth clearing. If you look at some of the detail in here, there are certain exemptions, even to the permit process.

But look, can I just make this point? I mean for heaven's sake, what we've tried to do here is to come up with something that is fair. Now we've been on this road for a long time. My cabinet got beaten up in both Winton and Roma, as you well know for this, because we've tried to protect the land for future generations of farmers and also protect the environment.

For once we've got a fair proposition from the Commonwealth and the State. Now Dr Kemp and other ministers, federal ministers met with the stakeholders today, and there'll be more meetings. Stephen will be meeting with them next week. We are trying to work this through, and we are doing our best. For the first time ever the money is on the table, and it's set out in three particular programs. And if you look at Dr Kemp's release, we fully endorse that as a state. Can I just urge you to have a look at what we're doing here? A hundred and thirty million for financial incentives to assist with the transition, or where necessary for exit assistance. What that means is, if you've got a farm, and you've got endangered on it, or of concern, then obviously it may not be farmable, we may buy it. That's what it might mean. But if, for example, you've got a farm or a property, or you've cleared some but you've got remnant on the next, it may well be you can't used the remnant. But that incentive package will provide you to do other things, other purpose... other farming purposes on that land.

So this is... let me finish. This actually means that farming is going to continue as practiced. This is actually supporting farming, but in an environmentally sensitive way. Then there's twelve million about improved management for valuable remnant vegetation. There's eight million for practice farming manage... better farm management practices. I mean, for heaven's sake, we've got the money on the table, we've got a fair proposition, which we're trying to negotiate in a sensible way with the stakeholders. This is the most significant advance in dealing with tree clearing that Queensland has ever, ever, ever had. And we're not going to walk away from it, we are going to deliver this with the Prime Minister, because both the Prime Minister and myself and David Kemp and Stephen Robertson are committed to a fair outcome. But we want to make sure we get a result.

QUESTION: The Commonwealth put their money on the table three years ago, you said it wasn't enough. [inaudible] money in the meantime...

PETER BEATTIE: That's not right. The reality with all this is that there has been an agreement reached about how to deal with this. And it's been a reasonable, sensible outcome where there is a total package. There's talks about. If you go to the second draft of Dr Kemp's release, the phase down of broadacre clearing talks about by vegetation to zero under a cap of 500. We have a total plan. That didn't exist before. As a result of discussion between the State and the Commonwealth, we have a total plan at last.

QUESTION: Dr Kemp, do your National Party colleagues support this proposal?

DAVID KEMP: The proposal is one that has come from the Commonwealth Government as a whole. It's one that the National Party colleagues and the Liberal Party colleagues together presented to the groups this morning. Warren Truss was there, as were two of the other Queensland Commonwealth ministers. So the Commonwealth is very pleased to be able to put this proposal, which has been developed by Commonwealth and State officials, to the farming community in Queensland.

QUESTION: Are you sympathetic that the National Party in Queensland at federal level may cop a bit of flak from groups such as AgForce and QFF over this package?

DAVID KEMP: Well look, it isn't a question of flak, it's a question of what is the right decision to take, what are the national interests and what is fair? And this proposal is an effort to put together a package which meets those criteria.

QUESTION: So if there's a little bit of political pain, it's not going to be relevant?

DAVID KEMP: Well, what we're saying is, we are prepared to put this package forward and get comment and response from the farming organisations. And they did this morning in an initial way, and they'll be coming back to us with further comment. It is a difficult issue for landholders. I want to emphasise that. I mean we don't obscure that fact. But equally it's a package which means that there will be no pain ultimately borne there by landholders in terms of an economic cost, because the compensation in the package is, on our assessment, fully adequate to meet the economic loss that the package might otherwise cause. So we're not asking landholders in Queensland to bear a significant economic cost at all. The package is designed to make sure that that is fully dealt with and fully funded.

QUESTION: And Premier, can I ask you, there's been such a flurry of environmental announcements from you, what's going on, we're turning into the green Premier, are we? That's your legacy.

PETER BEATTIE: Well I [inaudible]. What we're trying to do, and you can hardly say that any of this brushed up on us. I mean tree clearing has been around for years now. We finally have got a plan with the Commonwealth, and I want to thank Dr Kemp and the Prime Minister for that. Stephen's worked very hard on it. We finally have a plan which we believe is broad enough to win community support. Now we think it's fair, we think it's balanced, and we're ask... I just appeal to the stakeholders to treat it on its merits. I know that's going to be difficult. In terms of the reef, the reef's been around, you know, before any of us arrived here as a European civilisation, and we've been working on this plan for some time. The reef plan is not... nothing new. There's no... if your question is, Kim, is there an election agenda? I've already told you, there won't be an election until next year. All these things will be well and truly done before any of the election agenda or time arrives [inaudible].

QUESTION: You said that as your legacy, a whole lot of these environmentally...

PETER BEATTIE: Look, this is just about good policy. This is about good policy and about Queensland's future. No one should be under any illusion. This is about Queensland's future. This is good for Queensland.

QUESTION: And what do you say to farming groups, for example, who say that you're coming down way too often on the side of the conservation...

PETER BEATTIE: $150 million in this package to assist farmers. In terms of the reef, it's a partnership with farmers.

QUESTION: So it's not taking sides?

PETER BEATTIE: No, it's about a balanced approach. And you couldn't get more balanced than we've been in this document today on the reef, and $150 million to farmers to ensure that we make the transition. Now that shows balance. And if we're not being balanced we would have had regulations on the reef today, which we don't have. And we would have had an ongoing permanent moratorium without compensation. I just ask people to be fair about this. I say to all of you, you really are, both the Commonwealth and State are entitled to go on this. We are trying to make a significant policy change here, one of the most significant policy changes in the history of this state. If we guarantee the future of the reef, I mean that's bigger than any political party or any government. If we can guarantee the future of land use in this state, that's bigger than any political party or any government. They are important legacies for Australia. Forget about Queensland on its own, they're important legacies for Queensland, yes, but they're important legacies for the whole of Australia.

QUESTION: Where do you [inaudible] important policies for Queensland. We've got three major policies all released on the same day. I mean...

PETER BEATTIE: Well no, we've got two major policies released today. And with the ongoing salinity [inaudible] at this stage or of a program that started when you and I were out at wherever it was....

QUESTION: Why release them on the same day? These things keep coming and coming and coming...

PETER BEATTIE: No look, Dr Kemp and I wanted to release the reef quality plan. This is run out of my department in partnership with the EPA. Dr Kemp's is the carriage of this. Dr Kemp was in town today for discussion on tree clearing. Dr Kemp and I agreed to do this today to demonstrate the partnership between the Commonwealth and the State. The meetings were on today. You guys have clearly asked for the details of the meeting of the tree clearing. Dr Kemp and Stephen Robertson and I had a discussion before, we agreed that we should share publicly the detail of what was being put to the stakeholders.

QUESTION: Premier...

PETER BEATTIE: Now it's not a matter... I mean we could have said today, look, we're not going to release it and provide secrecy and said FOI. And we wouldn't do that because we're open...

QUESTION: I wouldn't say that..

PETER BEATTIE: We would never hide it from you, and you shouldn't suggest we hide this. You're quite wrong there.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]

PETER BEATTIE: Well look, just be happy you got [inaudible] bloody paperwork tomorrow, otherwise you'd have nothing.

QUESTION: Premier...

PETER BEATTIE: Can I say with great courtesy...

QUESTION: Can Cathy have a turn?

PETER BEATTIE: ...think about the logic...

QUESTION: Put your hand up.

PETER BEATTIE: ...we've got a reef policy today, Dr Kemp's in town, we've got discussions on about tree clearing. There's no big deal about that. I'm sorry, Cathy.

QUESTION: A year since Nancy Crick died and there...


QUESTION: It's been a year since Nancy Crick died of euthanasia. What are you thoughts a year on?

PETER BEATTIE: Does Dr Kemp need to [inaudible] the other things? I don't want to hold him, he's got other meetings.

QUESTION: One more question on tree clearing. I don't know whether either of you want to comment. You talk about the phase down of broadacre clearing of remnant vegetation to zero by 2006 under a cap of 500,000 hectares. How will you... you've [inaudible] all new applications for tree clearing. How will you manage who gets to clear their land?

PETER BEATTIE: It's a matter for discussions with stakeholders.

QUESTION: You obviously won't be able to approve all applications...

DAVID KEMP: No, there is a proposal for a [inaudible] cross reach [inaudible]

QUESTION: It'll go into a... they'll go into a barrel and they'll...

PETER BEATTIE: Maybe a couple of barrels. But they're issues we need to talk to the stakeholders about.

QUESTION: Premier?

PETER BEATTIE: These things do need to be talked through. It's not a fait accompli.

QUESTION: And when do you want the land... You want the stakeholders to come back by the end of May, when do you want it all signed, sealed, delivered?

PETER BEATTIE: As soon as we can from June, July [inaudible]

QUESTION: And will there be funding in your budget?

PETER BEATTIE: Oh, there'll be funding. Look, we took just the CDRC a couple of... few months ago, who hadn't come to any arrangements - or a few weeks ago, it wasn't... We had to come to an understanding with the Commonwealth. It's already been ticked off by Treasury. Stephen took a submission to CDRC and it's already been ticked off. So it'll be through the process.

QUESTION: The end of July [inaudible] requirements, Dr Kemp?

DAVID KEMP: That's feasible we'll have this locked down by then.

Dr Kemp's media contact:
Cathy Job 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia