Finally, some attention is being payed to the facts about vegetation cover and management activities in Queensland, in particular, the contribution and impact of regrowth and thickening. At last, farmers and landholders have been able to challenge the shock and awe propaganda circulated by green activists about vegetation management rates, after their manipulation and misuse of data in the Statewide Landcover and Tree Survey (SLATS) was exposed.
In May, an alliance of green groups resuscitated their campaign against the former LNP Governments sensible and balanced 2013 reforms to Queensland’s vegetation management framework. This anti-agriculture, anti-regional development coalition offered up the same old hackneyed and hysterical claims. Fortunately, after the lengthy debate that occurred ahead of Labor’s attempt to overturn those reforms in 2016, they encountered a better informed public.
The first crack appeared when mainstream media picked up on the fact that SLATS data could not account for regrowth vegetation. The green activists claimed that this was irrelevant and in doing so, challenged the Flat Earth Society for pre-eminence in the field of pseudoscience. I have previously dealt extensively with the limitations of SLATS data, both inside and outside the Queensland Parliament, including how the data is bastardised by Labor and the Greens.
As I said during the debate on the Palaszczuk Government’s 2016 bill, the key to understanding the SLATS report is to put an effort into understanding what type of vegetation management activities were undertaken, where and for what purpose. Farmer bashing Labor Ministers – like Jackie Trad and Steven Miles – are fond of using global figures that fail to differentiate activities like fodder harvesting and thinning, instead labelling them as broad scale clearing.
Now the Palaszczuk Government has been caught out, not just denying the contribution of regrowth and thickening, but fudging the figures in official government reports published by state departments. What started with the exposure of deliberate fear mongering by green activist groups through the exaggeration of SLATS data, has now be shown to be a wider conspiracy, involving the systemic doctoring of reports made available to the public by state agencies.
Environment Minister, Steven Miles, tabled the 2015 Queensland State of the Environment Report on 24 January 2017. I noticed some unusual statements on several pages which I believed made misleading and inaccurate assertions about vegetation management activities, in particular in relation to the establishment of pasture. I placed a Question on Notice to Natural Resources Minister, Anthony Lynham, on 10 May 2017, with a view to clarifying the content of the report.
The report claimed 91 per cent of all vegetation management activities in Queensland resulted in pasture being established as the dominant land cover. However, the report clearly included thinning, fodder harvesting, rural residential, urban land use and privately owned plantations as clearing to establish pasture. By any objective measure, this is inappropriate and inaccurate. The response from Minister Lynham has raised more questions than it answered.
Minister Lynham contradicted the report tabled by Minister Miles, which asserted that thinning, fodder harvesting, rural residential, urban land use and privately owned plantations are considered to be clearing to establish pasture. However, Minister Lynham did try to assert that self-assessable codes for managing regrowth and encroachment are used to establish pasture. This is also nonsense, as the clear purpose of these two codes are the activity for which they are named.
It seems the Palaszczuk Government is completely and hopelessly divided over how to properly account for and report vegetation management activities. One thing is clear, Queenslanders can have no confidence in the ridiculous claims and allegations made by Labor and the Greens about vegetation cover and management activities. The big lie peddled repeatedly and irresponsibly by the extreme activists over the last 20 years, is slowly unfolding and not before time.