Address to the tree-clearing rally, outside Queensland Parliament Wednesday 17 August

Thank you everyone for coming. It’s great to see so many people and colourful banners.

I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners: the Jagera and Turrbal people, their elders past and present, and their future leaders.

We are all here because we care deeply about our native wildlife, about the Great Barrier Reef, about climate change, and drought and erosion….We are here because of our escalating tree clearing rates, and because tree clearing directly impacts on all of these issues. You can’t clear 300,000 hectares each year, and not destroy threatened species, release tens of millions of tonnes of land use carbon emissions, or make run off and sedimentation in the Reef much worse.

You may have seen the images and videos of clearing happening in Queensland right now – some are here display – and it’s devastating stuff. Tree clearing is out of control again in Queensland!

Back in 2011, our tree clearing laws were working well – not perfect, but well enough to bring down clearing rates to their lowest ever since the 1930s. Despite promises to keep the laws as they were, the LNP substantially weakened the Veg Management Act: allowed a new type of broadscale clearing (so called HVA but really clearing for cattle grazing), and deprotected HCV regrowth. They also sensibly extend Great Barrier Reef protections to all reef catchments.

At the time, the LNP were warned what would happen: return of the dozers and chains, broadscale clearing back, rapid rise in clearing rates and emissions. That’s exactly what happened. The Bill in Parliament right now seeks to restore laws to where they were, laws that were working.

The science and the evidence on all this is absolutely clear. But despite what world leading scientists and ecologists have said about tree clearing rates, their impact on nature and climate, AgForce have continued to argue the opposite – that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They have claimed we have more trees than ever; they claim regulation will kill agriculture and lead to us all starving. In fact, Ag productivity over the last fifteen years has been quite stable and unaffected by regulation, same with prices.

This disconnect between the science, evidence, reality and the claims of AgForce is what is technically known as cognitive dissonance – or what most of us call Bullshit. This week is not only the week when the Bill will be voted on – it’s also national science week. So how about the opponents of this Bill take some time today to actually read the science, follow the logic, and stop their uninformed ideological resistance to sensible change.

So, it’s been quite a long haul to get to this point – A Bill in Parl, a debate about to be started today, and a vote on bringing down clearing rates to be taken …which I understand is mostly likely tomorrow.

I’d like to acknowledge the leadership of this Bill by the Deputy Premier, the support it has received from the government, and the open mind that the Independent MPs have kept about voting for it. It looks very much like it will come down the three wise men that hold the balance of power… This issue WILL NOT go away – I hope they look at the science and the evidence, they think about the reef and the climate and our wildlife, and they the Back the Bill to Restore the Laws.

Thanks again for coming, thanks to the conservation groups who have supported the campaign, and thanks to all the scientists, researchers and volunteers who have helped keep the issues focused on what matters.

Dr Tim Seelig

Coordinator, Queensland Conservation Council

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