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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

8 December 1999


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the Commonwealth has finally received details of Queenslands initial proposal for legislation to deal with the issue of land clearing.

The details have been provided to the Commonwealth only after extensive briefing of the media by the Queensland government.

Senator Hill says that while the Commonwealth will consider the detail of the legislation, several inaccuracies in Premier Beattie's statement to the Queensland Parliament need to be corrected.

Mr Beattie told Parliament that $100 million is "due" to Queensland and that the Commonwealth Department had agreed on this figure.

The Commonwealth has never "agreed" on a figure of $100 million.

Mr Beattie has misled the parliament and should either provide evidence to substantiate his claim or correct the record.

The $100 million figure actually comes from Mr Beattie as he is unprepared to commit any of his own funding toward this compensation.

Australia's other mainland states have all successfully introduced landclearing controls without seeking compensation from the Commonwealth.

Mr Beattie's most recent budget cut millions of dollars from the environment portfolio. He is now using the landclearing issue to seek Commonwealth funds to fill the hole he created.

The Commonwealth, meanwhile, has provided in excess of $110 million to Queensland over the past three years through the Natural Heritage Trust - $61 million of this was specifically targeted through the Landcare and Bushcare programs.

The Commonwealth is also already providing millions of dollars earmarked for greenhouse gas abatement measures to Queensland, despite Mr Beattie's false claim that his State has not seen a cent of this money.

Queensland is already receiving its "fair share" of greenhouse funding. For example, $5 million of the $10 million Renewable Energy Showcase Program went to Queensland projects.

Lack of financial support from the Commonwealth is clearly not the issue here. Lack of political will on Mr Beattie's part is.

Queensland farmers are still waiting to hear from Mr Beattie how much funding his government is prepared to commit to this problem. So is the Commonwealth.

Mr Beattie has remained remarkably silent on this issue.

Meanwhile Mr Beattie can find money to provide incentives to lure billionaire Richard Branson to Queensland.

It appears that for Mr Beattie, Virgin Airways is far more important than virgin bushland.

The Commonwealth will give consideration to the details of the Queensland legislation to ensure it provides an achievable outcome based on best practice and that it is fair to landholders.

Media contact - Rod Bruem on 02 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364.
December 8, 1999

Commonwealth of Australia