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Transcript
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

6PR Perth (Murray) - Thursday, 13 January, 2005

Property Rights & Wetlands


Murray:
Ian Campbell, the Federal Minister for the Environment, has heard this discussion today and he's come onto the program now. Good morning Ian.

Campbell:
Good morning Paul.

Murray:
What do you make out of this?

Campbell:
Well, I think it's a red-hot issue because you've got, you know, a lot of the natural heritage of Australia is held on private lands, on farms and pastoral leases, stations as we call them, and so the main people who look after this natural heritage are in fact the farmers and the pastoralists and graziers, so very important that they're on board and don't feel like some heavy-handed Government based in Perth is trampling on their property rights. So we had the Productivity Commission look into this last year, and in fact it was the first submission I took to Cabinet when I got made Environment Minister, and we're now taking this issue to the Council of Australian Governments, or what used to be called the Premiers' Conference, and asking for a uniform national approach to this, and the bottom line that we're seeking is that where a farmer has…or a pastoralist or any other landholder, has their property rights taken away for conservation reasons, public good reasons, for the good of the community as you might call it, then compensation should be paid. What we have to do…it's a little bit of a tricky issue – you've got to define what's the difference between what a landholder should do as normal looking after of the land, and what is over-and-above that in terms of, in this case, wetland conservation, and we have no argument wit the importance of wetlands. They are a vital part of our ecosystems. You can have a debate about what's a wetland and what's a puddle of water and you've got to get the science right. A farmer is going to again lose faith in the process if some bureaucrat from Perth says this is a wetland, and the farmer who's been there for 50 years knows damn well it's just a puddle. So you've got to have the farmers working with you and that's the Commonwealth's approach, is there should be fair compensation paid when you take away peoples' property rights…

Murray:
Yeah. There's some strong echoes here Ian, of this heritage debate, which raged in WA last year, you know, whereby the councils wanted to put peoples' properties on registers, completely change their ability to do to the property what they wanted to do, but not meet any of the costs associated with that.

Campbell:
Well I got myself in the middle of that debate as well, because as…I mean, I'm very lucky that I do live in Subiaco and I saw that debate raging and I…look, if the community, through their elected representatives, think that they want to save a bit of heritage and they go and stick it on some list arbitrarily, then the poor old property owner should be compensated. If the community thinks in their own thinking that it's a good idea to preserve a bit of property, they should be paying, not the landowner. It's exactly the same principle.

Murray:
Your interest is obviously wider than this State policy here in WA, but it embraces it.

Campbell:
Very much so. This is a policy we want to see applied across Australia and that's why the Prime Minister and I have sought to have this taken up by the Premiers' and the Territory leaders at the next COAG meeting, and we would…I would urge the West Australian Government to embrace that policy. It's only fair if you're taking away someone rights in relation to their farm or their land, then you pay them fair compensation.

Murray:
It does appear that Judy Edwards is trying desperately to get this off the agenda for the State election, so they've clearly got a problem somewhere.

Campbell:
I think they've got lots of problems Paul.

Murray:
Thanks Ian for that. Ian Campbell, Federal Minister for the Environment and, of course, a West Australian Senator.

Ends….

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