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Minister Confirms Farmers’ Land Still in Defence Firing Line

23 January 2017

AUSTRALIA - The Defence Minister has today confirmed dozens of farming families could still lose their land so Singaporean soldiers can train more often in Australia, but has committed to fast-tracking a final decision so landholders know their fate within four weeks.

AgForce General President Grant Maudsley welcomed the Defence Minister’s willingness to meet with a group of farmers potentially affected by Defence’s expansion plans, but said it appeared not a lot had changed after today’s meeting.

“AgForce has been very clear that we are opposed to any compulsory acquisition of farm land by Defence for military training,” he said.

“If these farming families in Central and North Queensland are forced off their land, it could mean up to 100,000 head of cattle lost to the state’s beef industry and this would have devastating flow-on effects for local business and local communities.

“We welcome the Minister’s commitment to give more consideration of using existing Defence land reserves to cater for increased training needs, and fast-tracking a final decision on the Defence master plan within four weeks will help remove the cloud of uncertainty hanging over landholders’ heads.

“However, while the Minister has stressed that compulsory acquisitions will only be ‘an absolute last resort’, that still effectively means that some farmers face being forced off their land when they don’t want to leave.

“We are well aware the Federal Government has the power to enforce compulsory acquisitions, but we believe taking land from agricultural producers for the benefit of the Singaporean army is an abuse of that power.”

Mr Maudsley said the issue had highlighted the need to recognise the importance of agriculture and give it the priority it deserves in land use planning.

“Too often good quality agricultural land is being lost to competing interests such as mining, urban development, national parks and now military training expansions,” he said.

“Agriculture and farming are woven into the fabric of Australian culture, the economy and regional communities – and this should not and must not be compromised.

“AgForce will continue to do everything possible to assist affected landholders during this difficult and uncertain time, and we will do everything we can to hold politicians to account.”

Mr Maudsley called on Australians to demonstrate their support for affected landholders and communities by logging on to www.farmers.org.au/defendourfarms and send an email to Defence Minister Marise Payne urging her to take compulsory acquisition off the table.

Further Reading

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