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Government surrenders on defence land grab plans

8 February 2017

More than two months of anguish is over for 65 Queensland farmers with the Federal Government today squashing plans to forcibly acquire their properties.

Deputy Prime Minister Hon Barnaby Joyce MP ruled out the compulsory acquisition of farms in both the Charters Towers and Shoalwater Bay regions in a statement at Parliament House.

The Department of Defence had planned to potentially forcibly acquire up to 300,000 hectares of prime grazing land for the expansion of military training facilities in the Marlborough and Charters Towers regions as part of a deal between the Australia and Singapore.

Since the plans were revealed in late November 2016, the National Farmers’ Federation and AgForce Queensland have been fighting with these communities to halt the forced acquisitions.

National Farmers’ Federation Chief Executive Tony Mahar said today’s announcement by the PM has ended weeks of anguish for the Queensland farming families and the communities they support.

“We are immensely relieved that today the Government has acted to remove the threat of forced acquisition and to prioritise farming land for agricultural purposes.

“Agricultural is a pillar of our national economy. Australian farmers deserve to be able to go about their work of growing food and fibre for the world without fear of unjust Government land grabs such as this.”

Mr Mahar said he particularly acknowledged Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his visit with affected landholders in Marlborough last week, and the work of local member Michelle Landry in taking the time to understand community concerns.

“There is no doubt that Deputy Prime Minister Joyces’ visit with the farmers highlighted to him the inequity in the Government’s plans to strip away the livelihoods and way of life of these farmers.

“Deputy Prime Minister Joyce made it clear at the meeting that he did not support compulsory acquisition of land, and nor did the Prime Minister. Deputy Prime Minister Joyce committed to making this known to his cabinet colleagues - in particular the Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne.”

“He has done just this and today we have the result we were seeking and we thank him for this”

Mr Mahar said the NFF and AgForce are, and will continue to be, vehemently opposed to forced acquisitions of farmland.

“We now look forward to working with the Government to determine a fair process for those farmers who do want to negotiate the sale of their property to the Department of Defence,” Mr Mahar said.

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