Greens hit Nalder over pastoral laws

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Agriculture Minister Dean Nalder says he will not support new pastoral laws if they are detrimental to the industry.
Camera IconAgriculture Minister Dean Nalder says he will not support new pastoral laws if they are detrimental to the industry. Credit: Ian Munro.

Agriculture Minister Dean Nalder is being spammed by green groups who see him as a barrier to contentious land-use law reforms backed by Nationals leader Terry Redman.

Mr Nalder said yesterday that he was surprised at being targeted by groups such as the Pew Charitable Trust and the Conservation Council of WA because he had not made public his position on changes to the Land Administration Act which are set to have a big impact on the pastoral industry.

“What I have said in the partyroom, to the Nationals and (to) station owners is that in principle I support what is trying to be achieved,” he said. “What I’m concerned about is that the risks in the legislation have not been clearly articulated. I’ve been talking to a lot of pastoralists and there are some matters that have come out. As the Minister for Agriculture, I see it as my responsibility to keep an eye out for their interests.”

Mr Redman, the Lands Minister, is hoping to push the changes through Cabinet and Parliament this year. He says changes are needed to attract investment in more than 230 million hectares the Government regards as under-utilised. Pastoral leases cover about 85 million hectares.

A group backed by Pew and CCWA called Our Outback, Our Story is using its website to urge supporters to email Mr Nalder because he “might block these historic changes”.

“The changes to outback laws that we’ve been working so hard to achieve are now at risk,” it says. “His opinion could sway the Government one way or the other — and it’s vital that he chooses the right road ahead for our outback.”

A sample email on the website addressed to Mr Nalder, says: “Outdated laws are currently holding people back in the outback, preventing them from taking up new opportunities such as carbon farming that would help their agricultural businesses prosper as well as looking after the land.”

The lobbying by US-based Pew and CCWA comes with Heytesbury Cattle Company director Paul Holmes a Court and other big names in the industry strongly opposed to Mr Redman’s plans.

Mr Nalder said he had an open mind but would not support Mr Redman’s changes if they were detrimental to the industry.

“To see Pew and the Conservation Council involved in this campaign does beg the question of why green interests are pushing this so hard,” he said. “Some pastoralists have raised concerns about the green aspect and how that might affect their ability to operate in the future.”

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