In his speech to the NSW Parliament on Tuesday 11 November 2014, Rev Nile stated:
NATIVE VEGETATION AMENDMENT BILL 2014
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [8.17 p.m.]: I reaffirm the Christian Democratic Party’s support for the Native Vegetation Amendment Bill 2014. We congratulate the Hon. Robert Brown on introducing the bill and for persisting with attempts to reform the Native Vegetation Act, which has needed reform since it was introduced in 1997. I remember vividly that the Native Vegetation Conservation Bill was introduced on 5 December 1997. Our party did not support the bill. We were approached by the NSW Farmers’ Federation to not only oppose the bill but also to introduce amendments.
When I received the amendments I asked why The Nationals were not moving them and I was told by the NSW Farmers’ Federation that The Nationals were not willing to move the amendments on that occasion. I had not realised there were in fact 41 amendments. To keep my word to the federation, I commenced moving the amendments at 10.37 p.m. on 5 December and I moved the last amendment at 12.47 a.m. the next day. If those amendments had been passed they would have removed some aspects of the bill that were putting heavy burdens on the farmers and those that were not in the best interests of this State.
The amendments obviously covered a wide range of issues. Divisions were called for only on the main amendments, not all 41, and the results in each case were 17 ayes and 19 noes. The Australian Labor Party, The Greens and the one Australian Democrat opposed the amendments and the Liberal Party, The Nationals, the Christian Democratic Party and the Hon. John Tingle, representing the Shooters Party, supported them.
The Christian Democratic Party is pleased to support this bill, which will repeal some of the injustices in the Native Vegetation Act. We are clear about what farmers have told us about the Act imposing a heavy burden.
Contrary to The Greens’ view, an Auspoll survey indicates that residents of all parts of New South Wales think that rural economic growth is important and that farming should lead that growth. More than 90 per cent of residents in both regional and metropolitan areas believe that it is very or quite important to support economic growth in regional areas and that we should support a thriving farming industry. More than 60 per cent think that farming should be the main focus of economic growth. The survey also demonstrated a high level of trust in New South Wales farmers. Of course, the same cannot be said of the attitude to The Greens. Residents of New South Wales believe in farmers’ green credentials. Farmers are the most trusted group from a list of different professions, including, doctors, teachers and politicians.
In addition, 85 per cent of respondents believe that farmers care about the long-term sustainability of their land and 60 per cent trust farmers to do the right thing by the environment. While some restrictions are considered necessary, the current restrictions on farm vegetation clearing and the impact that they are having are seen as unreasonable. In fact, 81 per cent of respondents think it is unreasonable that farmers must seek permission to clear weeds from their land. However, 74 per cent think it is reasonable that they be required to seek permission to clear land of high conservation value. More than 87 per cent of respondents think it is unreasonable that the restrictions are costing the average farm $156,000 and the New South Wales economy $1.1 billion a year. Green tape is seen as the reason for that impost.
A vast majority of New South Wales residents favour a regional approach to setting vegetation clearing limits, thereby giving farmers more flexibility. More than three-quarters of the residents of Western Sydney, metropolitan New South Wales and regional New South Wales favour a regional approach to vegetation clearing control as opposed to a case-by-case approach for each individual farm. Most respondents—60 per cent—think that vegetation clearing decisions should include consideration of social and economic benefits for the local area. That is the goal of the Hon. Robert Brown’s bill. The Christian Democratic Party supports the bill. The Government has foreshadowed that it will move a number of amendments, but the Christian Democratic Party is not happy with them because they would take us back to where we started. I understand that the Shooters and Fishers Party also has some reservations about them. We will follow the debate in Committee, but at this stage I foreshadow that the Christian Democratic Party will not support the amendments, but it will support the bill.
(Photo credit: Weeklytimesnews.com.au)