Environmental review offers little for agriculture

Environmental review offers little for agriculture

OPINION
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In this week's The Gauge column, Queensland beef producer Josie Angus says the interim report into the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act offers agriculture as a 'silent sacrifice'.

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Josie Angus

Josie Angus

On Monday, I woke to headlines of "PM orders green tape barriers destroyed", inspired by the release of Graeme Samuel's interim report into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

At first glance the interim report states a goal to deliver Ecologically Sustainable Development.

Dig a little deeper though and it would seem offers nothing for agriculture.

Behind this review sits the Australian State of the Environment (SOE) Report.

Building new suburbs, opening a coal mine, major infrastructure projects all pose a significant threat to biodiversity.

Wildfires, cats, foxes and rubbervine decimate biodiversity.

Even the growing of plant based foods requires full substitution of ecosystems.

Related reading: Environmental laws fail both sides of the fence and need overhaul

There aren't too many developments that don't have a major impact on biodiversity, but the SOE report, the premiere report our government relies upon for environmentally related policy, singles out cattle grazing as the major threat to biodiversity in Australia.

Delve into the SOE report and you will find that no one has bothered to measure the performance of the environmental legislation mire that has strangled Australian agriculture for the last 30 years.

The report itself states "limited information is available" in this area.

A key test for development involves threatened species.

To be classed a threatened species simply requires any person, with no qualifications, to "observe, estimate, infer or suspect" that an animal or plant is in population decline or might be in the next three generations.

No requirement to measure anything, just a suspicion will do.

It would appear to me that many have flown the white flag, preferring our agricultural land to be the tradeable offset for every other development in the country.

There appears more engagement with those who would make an industry of offsets rather than those on the ground who could offer a vision for a definition for ecologically sustainable development for agriculture.

The truth is grazing beef cattle is one of the only industries and food sources on the planet that can co-exist with nature.

Our cattle producers created billions of kilometres of fire breaks and fought countless fires, they've killed billions of foxes, cats and rabbits.

They've been the ones on the ground constantly battling the scurges of invasive weeds.

Our graziers have opened up millions of acres of new ecosystems with the introduction of permanent water, improved soils and pastures.

Nature offered feast or famine, animals flourishing in a run of good seasons then millions perishing in a dry.

The UN / NGO led conservationists have just one card in their land management playbook, "lock it up".

Instead of being able to utilise machines and technology that can allow us to selectively develop, to protect and to enhance, we must regress to fire sticks and people trying to cover a million acres on foot with a knapsack.

If agriculture is to lead us out of the mire of COVID-19 debt, we need big thinking and legislation based in fact, not fiction.

We need boots on the ground actually measuring outcomes.

The EPBC review must provide for ecologically sustainable development for agriculture, not just offer us up as the silent sacrifice for the latest urban development or carbon target.

- Josie Angus is a beef producer from central Queensland.

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