(1) Cubbie Station Buy out not on - Anderson
(2) Warren Truss initiates an inquiry into "future water supplies for Australia`s rural industries & communities"
(3) BIA conference in Longreach
(4) Greg Burrows - Land destruction - the discussion continues
(5) Leon`s  Reply
(6) Peter Wren (WA) writes about
 proposed Amendments to the EPA Act for the Protection of Native Vegetation in Western Australia
(1) Cubbie Station Buy out not on - Anderson

The Federal Government will not be supporting the flawed Cubbie Station buyout as proposed by the Beattie Government, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, said today.

"As far as I am concerned, the proposal as it stands is dead in the water," Mr Anderson said. "The Beattie Government has hopelessly confused a number of separate issues and failed the key test of consulting with the community."In my view, the Cubbie Station proposal fails on all counts of transparency, consultation, science, effectiveness and value for money. The idea that governments other than Mr Beattie's should meet 85 percent of the purchase price is preposterous, given Queensland's primary responsibility for its own water management.

"Despite media reports today, I have never said the Federal Government would support the proposal if the Queensland Government stumped up half the cost of buying the property."Mr Beattie has deliberately chosen to confuse his original Cubbie Station objective - to restore environmental water flows to meet its objectives under the Murray-Darling Basin water cap - with the new and emerging debate over potential salinity in the region.

In particular, salinity and water quality matters must be addressed under the National Action Plan for Water Quality and Salinity (NAP), to which the Queensland Government is a signatory. This ensures that these issues are addressed in consultation with affected communities on the basis of agreed science."Where eligible under NAP, integrated catchment and regional management plans for dealing with water quality and salinity matters are jointly funded by the Commonwealth with relevant state governments.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the Beattie Government had been true to form again and confused itself on the nature of water initiatives elsewhere. It shows no understanding of the complex issue of water policy.

(2) Warren Truss initiates an inquiry into "future water supplies for Australia`s rural industries & communities"

A letter from Ian Dundas (committee secretary of the inquiry) has been sent to various people / organisations - such as Landholders for the environment -  asking for submissions into this inquiry.

If you would like to make a submission, you are asked to email it to Primary.Industries.Reps@aph.gov.au by 30th August 2002

It seems that the better submissions will be published on a web site

The terms of reference are

* The role of the commonwealth in ensuring adequate & sustainable supply of water in rural & regional Australia

* Commonwealth policies & programs, in rural & regional Australia that could underpin stability of storage & supply of water for domestic consumption and other purposes

* The effect of Commonwealth Policies & programs on current & future water use in rural Australia

* Commonwealth policies & programs that could address & balance the cometing demands on water resources

* The adequacy of scientific research on the approaches required for adaption to climate variability And better weather prediction, including the reliability of forcasting systems and capacity to provide specialist forecasts.

(3) BIA conference in Longreach

Dear Leon,

The Beef Improvement Association of Australia's conference is at Longreach on August 8 and 9th. The program is great, from economic/social and environmental speakers and there will be a very stimulating group of movers and shakers there. The BIA has a very strong backgroud on the environment over a number of years. Contact Mary Ann Ringrose  pn 07 4658 3137 at Longreach, maryringrose@tpg.com.au    
(4) Greg Burrows - Land destruction - the discussion continues

Gday Leon
I replied to you before on the land clearing issue & the responsibilities of individuals in regard to clearing.
That was basically the party securing base data on Flora Fauna And Groundwater before anything else.
This would than be looked at as part of  a sub catcthment / catchment plan& a regional platform.
A decision needs to be made on whether priorities are environmental (basically clean air and water) or economics(either short term, say the term of a politician or a bit longer).
 You continue to have what appears to be the spoilt child mentality picking all the things that you want or agree with  but failing to take on any responsibility for anything that might be wrong or being responsible for any actions that have a detrimental effect on the environment.

What I think is that we & particularly QLD hasn't learnt anything from past mistakes i.e. Landclearing, As I watched the ABC news tonight with your premier suggesting some of the long term effects of landclearing, I can only scratch my head and wonder, did you really think it wouldn't happen ( salinity) I also wonder that if you destroy so much of your local identity tat you will have a continues supply of angry you people to contetend with & no one will know why?
I have no doubt it is everybody's problem not the poor old farmer (affected by drought yet again), ( is this land use appropriate or sustainable in this country  or is the farmer like the bilby?)
I also believe that we (as a nation) cant afford to fix the environmental problems we have at present, it is & will continue to effect all Australians directly & indirectly.
Being involved in the current NHT process I would say that 90% more money is spent on trying to administer the program than getting action on the ground( which is old news for the past decade).
Motivation will come with necessity , there has been an environmental tax in this country for over 200 years, it just hasn't been paid.
Greg Burrows
That bit about the size for habitat went over my head.

(5) Leon`s  Reply

Hi Again Greg,
I will reply to a couple of the things you have said

(1) Spoilt children not taking responsibility -
I don`t know how much you have to do with landholders who constantly improve their land despite droughts, floods, low prices etc, but I reckon you should be prepared to take a bit of responsibilty yourself and buy a few thousand acres of farming country and show all of us "spoilt children" how to make a better living off the land than we are doing.

If all it takes is "know how" then surely you should demonstrate rather than just criticise from the sidelines.
(2) Salinity In Qld -
There is a lot of Land that does not have a dryland salinity risk because of one of the following reasons
* either the soil does not have salt in it, or
* there is no rising water table, or
* the soil seals over when fully saturated, and this prevents rainfall from entering any aquifers

Much (perhaps 80% ? of Qld`s rangelands) that requires tree management to improve water infiltration and establish more drought resistant grasses and control tree densities etc, does not have either salt in the soil, or rising water tables.

Now of those grazing areas that do have both salt in the soil and rising water tables, the answer is in balancing the recharge / discharge of water into the aquifers.

The best way to do that is by using deep rooted perennial grasses (lucerne, Buffel grass, Kangaroo grass, etc) - trees DO NOT PREVENT water from reaching the water table to the same degree as perennial grasses do.
In many instances in Qld, the best way to establish a dense stand of deep rooted prennial grass, suitable to the climate & soil - is by using the tool of "tree pulling" followed up with good grazing and fire management.
(3) Environmental tax hasn`t been paid in 200 years -

I would argue that Ausralia has come a long way in 200 years from a land that could feed only 600,000 or so, to a country that can now feed 100 million or so, and it is still increasing.
While we only have a population of 20 million, we (as a nation) have the opportunity to either export the extra produce as either raw materials or in value added goods.

As any business person knows, when new things are trialled, there are often unintentional problems, and farming is no exception, but NOONE - and that includes EVERY EXPERT IN THE COUNTRY - can come up with the best way to manage every bit of land exactly right, first time.

Now this idea that our environmental tax hasn`t been paid, is an exaggerated mind set that considers the environment to be something like a building or something solid that gets damaged and has to be fixed.
In reality, the environment is ALWAYS changing, but few have a picture of different microorganisms having large populations one day and very few another, or one species outcompeting another, then being outcompeted itself, or soils changing slowly, or vegetation changing by itself over 50 years, yet all this is occurring constantly every day.

What I`m saying is that the environment is a living, moving, self healing type of organism of millions of different relationships between species and we humans are one of those species.

What we humans have however, is the ability to set up market signals for landmanagers to be able to move the landscape in the direction the public wants - if the correct signals (incentives) are there.

The green movement has tried to say that market signals are not important -  laws & regulations are the way to go.

I say that will NEVER, EVER work.

So to conclude, I believe we have to ask the right questions to get the right answers, and here are my questions.

Does conservation feed the world?
Does intensive farming feed the world?
Does intensive farming conserve many species?
Does intensive farming allow for large areas to be set aside for conservation?

Will reducing the amount of area for intensive farming also reduce the areas available for conservation?

Can land be gradually improved from desert to rich farming land?
Can Land that has been nuclear bombed become good land?
Can salt be removed from the land commercially?
Can conservation be achieved with commercial incentives?
Will land managers improve the land when the incentives are greater than any disincentives?

Can you see an answer?


(6) Peter Wren (WA) writes about
 proposed Amendments to the EPA Act for the Protection of Native Vegetation in Western Australia
Since the new legislation introduces the concepts of "environmental harm" and “serious environmental harm”, let's begin by broadening the perspective and suggest that consideration is given to the  "serious socio-economic harm" and wrongdoing the proposed amendments can cause to members of the wider community, private property entitlements and investment.  "Serious socio-economic harm" means that which:
·     (a) involves actual and potential socio-economic harm that is irreversible, of a high impact or on a wide scale to private property owners and industries reliant upon the institution of private property for sustenance.
·     (b) involves actual or potential significant harm to the registered interests and values held by private property owners and to the special significance that the institution of private property holds for our society, including for purposes of inter-generational equity.
·     (c) results in actual or potential loss of value, uses, rights and registered interests held in specified lands, including actual and potential to leverage for borrowing and income earning purposes.

The proposed amendments as outlined are designed for calculated stealth by regulation of privately held assets.  In essence the thrust of the EPA Act 1986 is changing from governing uses and activities related to the environment to one of 'taking' and 'resuming' from the private landowner--without compensation.
Privately held freehold land constitutes only 7.5% of all land tenure in Western Australia.  Being such a small proportion of the total landscape it is not difficult to understand that when you remove the activity of the mining sector it is the central focus for clearing of land and development--production, adding value and capital growth.  

What is hard to understand is the continual onslaught on this precious and shrinking resource by governments and their agencies.  One can only surmise that it is an ideological aberration of the present generation, who on one hand espouse the merits of inter-generational equity (natural justice and fairness) yet seem so hell bent to destroy one of the fundamental sources of that equity-the institution of private property.   

Private property is land alienated from the Crown for the possession of any estate of freehold. The entitlements and rights to use the land are governed by legislation that becomes effective at the date of issue of the title.  Any action as a result of subsequent legislation that affects and restricts the entitlement is subject to compensation.  This has been recognised and upheld in law and legislation with many holders of indefeasible private property titles owning and having rights to use earth and common rocks (limestone, rock, gravel, sand or clay), certain minerals not reserved to the Crown, timber, what is now classified as native vegetation and in the case of water---springs lakes and lagoons.  The ownership and rights to use indigenous aquatic or terrestrial habitats and biota remain with the titleholder.  

The ownership and rights to use biodiversity or any part of what constitutes the environment remain with the titleholder.  The classic example is pre-federation entitlements granted before 1 January 1899.  The Common law rule is that fixtures to the land are part of the land and therefore belong to the owner of the land.  Real property rights are also capable of being inherited.
The use of any of the resources no matter what the nature of entitlement is understood to be subject to the provisions of the EPA Act 1986.  It is interesting to note that the draft 2000 EPA Bill also introduced the term of "environmental value" as

(a) a beneficial use or
(b) an ecosystem health condition.  

These concepts strengthen that the ecological structure, ecological function or processes along with the ecosystem health condition is held by entitlement to the estate of freehold by many private property owners and that the determination of beneficial use is of a subjective and private nature.  The major cause for concern of the proposed amendments is the interpretation and application of what are essentially subjective determinants such as "harm" and "beneficial" in relation to the various components that constitute the environment.  

Beauty and ugliness are in the eye of the beholder.  Also of utmost concern is that there is no evidence of procedural provisions in the Environmental Protection Amendment Bill 2002 to make the Department of Environmental Protection accountable and subject to liability in relation to their actions and decisions that will affect the socio-economic well-being of applicants, especially given that decisions are to be heavily influenced by a highly subjective and emotive methodology to determine "harm" and/or "beneficial use".  As such there is no protection to safeguard the private property owner from the use of misinformation or biased opinions in documentation relating to the state or relative changing condition of native vegetation.
We purchased our freehold farmland in 1972-74.  We are rural landowners and stakeholders with over 56% of our heavily rated property uncleared.  It is disappointing for us to see yet again no mention of equality or equity toward the increased and total impost upon private property owners by these proposed amendments.  A refusal to clear will result in government by decree of regulation stealing the capital value and natural resources from the private landowner without even having the social conscience to consider the genuine needs for compensatory mechanisms.

 Compensation is warranted not only for the loss of income but also for the loss of autonomy of decision making due to measures taken in the public interest.  

One can only conclude that the mean-spiritedness behind such inconsiderate action is analogous to how Josef Stalin in the early 1930's treated the Kulaks (successful, innovative and productive farmers who operated with a private ownership and free enterprise ethic) in the former Soviet Union; he just summarily shot them by the tens of thousands for the perceived social and public good.  Stalin propped up his regime with academic dialectical materialists who formed agencies and instituted brutal regulation over the farming communities in the form of collectives and state regulatory control.  

His callous actions to destroy the sensitive dynamics of private property ownership, investment and productivity subsequently resulted in the most drastic famine suffered by any society in the twentieth century with millions of people starving to death.

Clearing controls alone are not going to result in famine; however when the margins of democracy are eroded with apparent ignorance and contempt as to the impact of such measures on private landowners (as the architects of the proposed amendments are doing) the harmful and damaging effects are much the same.   It is as if farmers that survive will automatically make a transition to become unpaid and unfinanced amenity landscape managers expected to deliver more social and public good returns to the state on the land and natural resources stolen from them.
 Farmers will not engage in activity for negative financial return, no one can afford to do this.   In our circumstances it matters little whether we are farming cleared land for productivity or uncleared land for environmental, biodiversity and landscape amenity outcomes---WHAT MATTERS IS OUR ABILITY TO HAVE AN INCOME.  

Much of our uncleared land is in as good of an "ecosystem health condition" as that of nature reserves and national parks, and we are yet to be rewarded financially for our constant effort.  Grants to conserve more native vegetation through the new Native Vegetation Trust Fund are a retrograde waste of resources and do not in any way address the structural hard core issues.

 How many farmers and landholders severely and adversely affected by the proposed clearing controls are on the Natural Resources Management Council or at the least represented on the EPA’s Native Vegetation Protection Group?  No amount of window dressing in the form of the pie-in-the-sky promises of market-based clearing management schemes outlined as "immediate benefits" of the proposed amendments will provide legitimate or adequate benefits or compensation.  The value of private uncleared land must become a tradeable commodity in the form of a property right just as water rights are becoming. This will only happen with immediate government investment (compensation) at the outset.  Bush bank and bush brokers have been floundering for years as the proponents feather their nests with jobs and conferences at the expense of NHT.  

Scrutiny of the drafted forms of the Carbon Rights Bill 2002 and the Trees Plantation Bill 2002 has revealed exclusion of vegetation and trees "not naturally occurring" from receiving any rights to or benefits of carbon credits.  Why??  

Public investment in conservation as compensation must become fiscal policy to accompany the proposed changes; otherwise the private land becomes as an empty eggshell with the 'goods' (value) sucked dry for public interest. Without that support the title to land containing uncleared land is devalued, the prospect of income streams disappears and the ability for private landowners to obtain necessary financial support from the private banking sector to bear the ongoing and rising costs of management (including rates) will disappear.

 That is happening to us and many other farmers now, and the proposed changes will make banks even more nervous to finance the budgets of farms with significant portions of uncleared land.

 The fundamental fact is--and we quote from research done by the CSIRO:  "The public benefits of conserving native vegetation that are of high conservation value are greater than the benefits of developing them for production because their biodiversity values are not replaceable through revegetation.  Since nature conservation is not considered an income producing activity, however, it is much more expensive to manage land for conservation than for production." (Binning and Young 1998).  

Affected landholders face the situation where the government ignores fiscal responsibility to the private sector and for the public good invents the charade of "environmental harm"; thereby stealing the assets from private landowners and leaving them without a productive base, more costs to bear, and no access to streams of income - again solely for the public benefit.  It is gross infringement on basic human rights.  Where is social conscience, the hollow promise of philanthropic ethical investment?   It becomes starkly evident that the only financial and sustainable option for private landowners is to seek to clear the land.
Equality would include assessment criteria for the real and potential financial impact on the private land that is refused a clearing permit along with access to a tribunal to review the decision and backed by an appeal process to the courts for the pursuit of compensation costs by the affected landowner(s).  Equality would scrutinize the assessment process with advocacy to protect the interests of the private landowners affected by the rejection of an application to clear.  Equality would also legislate to protect the financial value of private uncleared land with the investment of public monies as compensation at the outset to secure the desired public benefit (good).  

Equality would insure the means to access income streams, as sustainability is only as good as stability of values and markets.  Some forms of clearing may be deemed by legislation to be illegal--the outright stealing of benefits and value from private property owners of uncleared land is despicable and immoral and will prove to be counter-productive over the longer term as a means to achieve sustainable land management.  It matters little whether 'benefits to the landholders' of uncleared land are described as assistance and or compensatory measures, the government must pay for and not steal from landholders for the public good of environmental, biodiversity and landscape amenity benefits.   
Australians and Natural Resource Management 2002 (National Land & Water Resources Audit) observes on p.53 &58:  "The inherent characteristics of natural resource management practices largely determine the rate of their adoption by producers.  Sustainable practices that provide economic and other advantages that can be captured by the landholder have lower risk, they are simpler to manage and will generally be adopted more rapidly.  Few natural resource management practices have all these characteristics."   Imposed natural resource management in the form of increased clearing controls through regulation without compensation as proposed in the amendments to the EPA Act are not sustainable as there is no production and no practices that provide economic or other advantages that can be captured by the landholder.  

The section on financial capacity concludes "Low farm incomes and high debt are likely to discourage adoption of sustainable practices that require capital investment but do not have immediate financial returns or that increase the risk exposure of a farm business.  Confidence in the stability of future incomes is associated with a greater likelihood to invest in natural resource management."
How can the proponents of these amendments, under the guise of "sustainability", justify this continual assault on the institution of private property, which by nature is in the form of uncleared land?  We strongly urge that for the sake of inter-generational equity provisions are inserted in the proposed amendments to the EPA Act to ensure that the interests held by private property owners will be protected with immediate compensatory mechanisms and the rules of natural justice and fairness will prevail in relation to applications to clear land.  Administrative decisions by the DEP must be subject to low cost appeal rights so that private landowners that are injuriously and adversely affected can seek redress.    
Become familiar with the merits of preserving the special significance associated with the institution of private rural property.  Inquire and find out about the precarious vagaries of rural finance, the bottom line of productivity and the need to show streams of income.  Remain aware of the experiences of Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union as the future environmental, social, and economic fabric of our land and free thinking people is so callously tampered with and hindered by these proposed amendments.    
Peter & Manya Wren
P.O. Box 5
Karridale WA 6288