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NFF calls for Cabinet to kill off defence land grab

3 February 2017

The National Farmers Federation is calling on the Federal Cabinet to stifle the defence department’s plan to forcibly acquire farmland in northern and central Queensland for defence training purposes.

The call comes after Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, could not go as far as ruling out forced acquisitions in a meeting with farmers in Marlborough today.

NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar said affected landholders valued the opportunity to hear from the Minister but had expected him to provide a more definitive solution to the issue.

“Farmers know Minister Joyce to be one of their staunchest allies – in public and around the cabinet table.

“They were pleased to hear Minister Joyce, was himself, opposed to the forced acquisition of farm land – but dismayed that he could not, on behalf of the Government categorically rule it out.”

Minister Joyce said he would need the backing of his cabinet colleagues to kill the plan and that he would be advocating strongly in Canberra to get this result.

“He also said the Prime Minister shared his support for the preservation of farmland for farming," Mr Mahar said.

The Government’s refusal to take forced acquisitions off the table leaves it in somewhat of a stalemate with farmers, the NFF and AgForce.

“The NFF and AgForce stand with landholders in vehement opposition to the forced acquisition of farming land,” Mr Mahar said.

“We are now calling on the Cabinet to ensure Australian agricultural land is absolutely preserved for agricultural purposes – a sentiment the Prime Minister echoed on radio this morning.”

Mr Mahar said he was pleased to hear from Minister Joyce that progress on works to determine the exact footprint of land deemed necessary for the defence expansion was on track to be finalised within three weeks.

“This will provide certainty to farmers and the communities they support – who are also caught up in this debacle."

He said any acquisition - forced or not – would be ‘life changing’ for those involved.

“It is not as easy as buying another farm in another area for these farmers.

“There just isn’t the area of comparable land available and it must be appreciated that these landholders have extended families and social networks in their current areas – and they may just not want to move.”

Mr Mahar said the impact on the small communities – small businesses and the farm-reliant workforce - also had to be taken into account.

Minister Joyce did not make the trip north to meet with about 30 landholders from Charters Towers whose properties have also been earmarked for acquisition.

“It is extremely disappointing that these farmers didn’t get to meet with the Deputy Prime Minister – their concerns are of no less importance than their counterparts in the Marlborough region.”

“We hope the Minister will, as a matter of priority, make a date in his diary, to travel to Charter Towers,” Mr Mahar said.

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