What’s the point of democracy if Government doesn’t listen?

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What’s the point of democracy if Government doesn’t listen?
Tuesday, 3 Sep 2019

Speech by AgForce CEO Michael Guerin

Reject the Reef Regs Rally, Townsville

 

Good morning everyone!

And what an inspiring morning it has been.

My fellow speakers – Michael, Dale, Marty, Susan and Peter – have filled me with a great sense of hope.

We can win this fight.

Seeing all of you here, taking time out of your day to stand up for regional Queensland in front of the State’s Premier and Parliament, shows what incredible freedoms we enjoy in one of the world’s finest democracies.

Compare this passionate but peaceful gathering with the scenes from Hong Kong.

There, protestors risk their lives – being shot with rubber bullets, beaten with sticks, doused with tear gas – just to express their views.

Here, we can do so in complete safety.

But even though we are freely able to express our views – including those critical of the Government and its decisions – I wonder what the point is of democracy if a Government refuses to listen.

The sad fact is that we wouldn’t be here at all if the State Government had listened to us in the first place.

But unfortunately, this Government has chosen a winner  – and despite their rhetoric, it is not regional Queensland, it is not agriculture and it is not farmers.

The flawed, unfair and ineffective reef protection bill we are protesting today is the latest in a long list of decisions that almost look DESIGNED to nobble agriculture in this State.

For example:

  • the crippling vegetation management laws that prevent farmers from constructing adequate fire breaks or feeding drought-ravaged stock with native vegetation
  • the closure of the State’s two remaining ag colleges at a time when rural Queensland needs not only a well-trained but passionate workforce

These policy failures are not intentionally destructive.

But the State Government is so focused on governing from and for Brisbane that tragic consequences are inevitable.

They are so obligated to the Greens and their theoretical ideology that they think they don’t have to consider the views of ALL voters.

The shameful Reef Protections Bill is a classic result.

Sure, it all sounds OK in theory, if you are an armchair environmentalist from the suburbs in the south-east.

But scratch the surface and there’s just more surface.

Many examples of selective science, best guesses and prejudicial assumptions have been exposed here today.

In an attempt to hide this monstrous bill from both scientific and public scrutiny, the Government tried to ram it through Parliament without community debate.

Only sustained pressure from regional Queensland forced them to hold a few token consultations outside of Brisbane.

Given the opportunity, farmers and their communities exploded in opposition.

They appeared in their hundreds at the public meetings, making impassioned speeches about the effects on communities, writing detailed submissions in the thousands.

Incredibly, not ONE of their perfectly reasonable, common-sense recommendations were included in the final bill

NOT ONE.

Because they didn’t fit the Government’s narrative.

Instead of answering the community’s concerns, considering their feedback, explaining the science and logic underpinning the Bill, the Government and the green idealists driving their agenda resorted to slander.

"Farmers oppose the bill because it stops us doing whatever we want."

"Farmers don’t care about the Reef or the environment, only about profits."

"Farmers are science deniers."

Such slanders are easy to make, but like the Reef Regs themselves, just don’t stand up to scrutiny.

The truth is that farmers are the same as their fellow Queenslanders.

We all want the same outcomes – healthy landscapes and Reef, a strong and viable agriculture industry, and vibrant communities.

Yes, we want to ensure the Government gets the science right.

Is the research rigorous and valid?

Is it being interpreted and applied legitimately?

Is more work needed to ensure resulting laws are fair and effective?

These are questions EVERY Australian should be asking and they SHOULD stand up to scrutiny – especially when so much is at stake.

Farmers are not alone in questioning these issues, as you have heard today from Dr Ridd and others.

However, farmers are not scientists and at the end of the day, we trust in others to get the science right.

But we DO know about

  • managing the landscape to provide sustainable food,
  • the vital role agriculture has in supporting regional towns and cities,
  • the devastating impact that poor legislation has on farmers, their families and their communities.

Sadly, the Government is ignoring us on these issues too.

It is increasingly apparent that this Government has lost its way.

Its entire agenda has been hijacked by an ill-informed minority and it doesn’t even realise it.

It claims to stand up for regional Queensland, but doesn’t.

So we will have to stand up for ourselves.

AgForce recently launched the Stand Up for Regional Queensland media campaign.

We want to tell the Government that they can’t ignore more than half the State.

Our hope is that industries and communities across rural and regional Queensland will stand with us, and give regional Queenslanders back their voice.

Just like we are doing here today.

The Government may continue to ignore reason, common-sense and compassion, but we need to show them that they can’t ignore US.

They MAY continue to govern as if they were in Beijing rather than Brisbane.

But as long as we stand united like we are today, we are sending them a clear message that they are not governing for us.

They may be democratically elected, but they are not democratic.

And that we – and future generations – will hold them to account.

Thank you.

What’s the point of democracy if Government doesn’t listen?

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