Gregory MP, Lachlan Millar, has called on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to reinstate her wild dog commissioners, Vaughan Johnson and Mark O’Brien.
Agriculture Minister, Mark Furner, confirmed at Tambo this week that the pair’s commission had ended on November 17 last year, midway through the state election campaign.
“The previous government and previous acting minister made that decision to conclude that in November,” he said.
Mr Millar said the news was disappointing because the two men were not only advocates for making sure the fight against wild dogs continued, but had the direct ear of the Premier.
While QDOG played an advisory role for the government, Mr Millar said the commissioners didn’t have to get involved in board structures and obtain prior agreement about an issue, but could provide “fearless advice” and were able to offer the government a sounding board.
“Vaughan has an incredible understanding of wild dog issues, both as a sheep producer, a fencing contractor and as the Member for Gregory for 26 years – no-one knows the issues better than him,” he said.
Ms Palaszczuk made the announcement that she was appointing the two commissioners, and making $5m in exclusion fence funding available at the start of May 2016.
It was another seven months before that money was made available and Mr Millar said if it hadn’t been for Mr O’Brien and Mr Johnson’s efforts, “that money wouldn’t have hit the ground”.
“I don’t understand why Minister Furner wouldn’t call for recommissioning them and get them back on deck to finish fencing programs and look for more opportunities,” he said. “They were paid a pittance compared to their rate of return on the ground.”
Mr O’Brien said the need for oversight of cluster fencing projects had passed.
“We’ve run that concept up the flagpole well – fences work,” he said. “If I thought there was still lots to do, I’d be sad, but I’m not.”
However, he said he would be happy to be appointed a commissioner for a different exclusion fence funding program, which he called a contingent liability loan scheme and had put to the government midway through last year.
Describing it as similar to a HECS loan, he said it would cater for graziers who hadn’t met the current criteria but wanted to access financial assistance to put an exclusion fence up.
“Some don’t have interested neighbours around them, to go in a cluster scheme,” he said.
Mr O’Brien’s idea differed to the $18m Treasury loan to the Longreach Regional Council for landholders in that shire to erect fencing, in that it would be a 20-year interest free loan paid back through productivity achievements, which would be assessed.
“With the Longreach model and the money available through QRIDA, both have a fixed payment schedule, which is a dangerous thing in this part of the world.
“If there is no rain, producers are in no better position to repay part of the loan in a year’s time.”
Mr Johnson was contacted for comment on his retirement as a wild dog commissioner.