14 November 2023
Mr COULTON (Parkes—Chief Nationals Whip) (16:12): I acknowledge the Minister in the room because I am sure she will be as concerned as I am about the issue I am about to raise. I have in front of me here a letter that one of my constituents received last week from the Australian Conservation Foundation. Apparently, the Australian Conservation Foundation had noticed through satellite imagery that these particular landholders in the western part of my electorate have been land-clearing, and they’ve sent quite a detailed, threatening letter to these people. We have a system in this country that is working pretty well to protect our vegetation. This farm had a PVP—a property vegetation plan—working closely with state government, who controls that on the ground. Clearly, the EPBC Act does have some role over the top, but this was not indiscriminate land-clearing; this was the removal of woody weeds, leaving more significant vegetation, turning a sterile scrub environment into a more productive and nutritious environment in a very planned and measured way. This is none of the Conservation Foundation’s business, quite frankly. They have no government authority. Were they scrolling over satellite imagery, or did some busy bee going down the Arthur Hall Way notice that there were some trees knocked over and lodged a complaint?
They talked about an extinction revolution, or whatever, here in this letter. We’ve got a population in this world that in a few decades time will be at 10 billion people. We’ve also got to work out how we’re going to feed and clothe those people, not just look at every form of land management and try to stop it, lock it up to become a sterile environment. Australian farmers have been caring for the land, managing the land and improving the land for a long time. They are a dynamic couple. They’re very good farmers, and part of their plan—it’s not their whole property—is done according to the rules. And the rules are working. We’re getting a balance between conserving vital, significant vegetation and making a farm more productive. The final sentence is, ‘If I do not hear from you by nine o’clock Monday *13 October, ACF may take further action without notice, including making public statements about clearing’. The ACF need to pull their head in. It’s not their job. We’ve got a government department that does that, and this is a very disturbing trend that we’re seeing here.
*The date listed in the letter was actually Monday 13 November