State Agriculture Minister and Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne
State Agriculture Minister and Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne Kerri-Anne Mesner

Defence Minister's announcement 'Spin and smokescreens'

LABOR Party politicians have come out swinging at an announcement today that will see the exact expansion area for Shoalwater Bay released in a month.

The Defence Minister, Marise Payne, made a three part announcement this afternoon in Rockhampton which included directing the Defence Department to minimalise the amount of agriculture land needing to be acquired for the expansion, any land which is required to be acquired should be done so in a timely manner and the Master Plan be completed within four weeks to give landholders and business owners a very clear time line and scale.

Read about the announcement here: Defence issued new orders over Shoalwater land acquisition

State Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne who visited landholders and Marlborogh business owners with Federal Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgerald and ALP Senator Murray Watt on Thursday has attacked today's announcement as being just 'spin and smokescreens'.

Mr Byrne said Ms Payne's announcement today confirmed top quality grazing properties will be seized for the expansion of Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.

He said this showed why it is necessary to go on fighting says Member for Rockhampton Bill Byrne.

Meanwhile, Senator Murray Watt said he was pleased to see that Defence Minister, Marise Payne, has finally had the decency to talk to the people of Marlborough on this issue.

"Landowners were told in November, out of the blue, that their properties would be resumed - it's taken Ms Payne three months to front up," he said.

"Reports that I have received from Ms Payne's meeting with Marlborough residents indicate that the Government still refuses to explain why the defence training area at Shoalwater needs to be expanded, and what alternatives the Government considered.

"Coming to a meeting is one thing. What the people of Marlborough tell me is that the Government needs to stop the secrecy and be straight with them."

Mr Byrne questioned the fast tracking of the Master Plan being the most effective action right now.

"Does she honestly thing that fast-tracking the process is the answer when what is really needed is detailed and comprehensive analysis," he said.

"Ms Payne finally showed-up in Rockhampton but has offered nothing but spin and smokescreens to property owners who face losing everything in a trade-deal land grab.

"Shamed and panicked into finally fronting those who face compulsory acquisition of their land, the Defence Minister has announced a four-week process to decide the fate of more than 40 properties and tens of thousands of head of cattle.

"The landholders wanted to hear one thing from her today - that she would rule out compulsory property acquisitions.

"Instead she effectively confessed the decision to rip land from its owners is a done deal.

"Minds are made up and all they can offer is to retrofit reports to fit their predisposed position and justify the unjustifiable.

"What a sham. What a disgrace.

"The threat of compulsory acquisitions remains like the sword of Damocles over property owners this afternoon.

"It is inherent nonsense to suggest a masterplan can be completed in just four weeks.

"The Defence Minister could not even outline today the capabilities that will inform this masterplan.

"Clearly there will be no assessment of environmental impacts, economic impacts, potential job losses or the long-term future of Marlborough. There will be no consideration of alternatives.

"It is also clear the Coalition Government has produced no business case for this expansion.

"It has taken far too long for the Defence Minister to visit Central Queensland to address this issue and we are still to hear from Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce about the impending loss of top quality agricultural land and the impact that will have on the cattle supply chain. It's beyond a joke and completely unacceptable.

"Property owners have been in extreme distress since late last year, with next to no consultation from the Federal Government and the threat of losing their land and their way of life hanging over them.

"It is obvious the LNP has no interest in listening to community sentiment.

"Michelle Landry and Matt Canavan have been no help and have just spouted platitudes about Shoalwater expansion being essential for the national interest with no official reports to back that up.

"It has been left to the Labor Party to stand up for these property owners. We have taken the lead while Ms Landry's sole contribution has been to bleat that she was kept in the dark by her own Party.

"Nothing short of an announcement there will be no compulsory acquisitions will suffice," said Mr Byrne.



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