THREAT TO AGRICULTURE
February 8, 2019
The latest attack on Queensland agriculture has left me shaking my head in anger and disbelief.
The publication of the personal details of Queensland farmers on the deceptively named “Aussie Farms” website by animal rights activists is more than a gross invasion of privacy. It is a threat against farmers and their families and an incitement to break the law.
Worse still, apparently the only way for farmers to protect themselves is to ask the Aussie Farms activists very nicely to please remove their details from the website. There is no guarantee they will deign to say “yes”.
As the LNP Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Tony Perrett, has said this website is simply a hit list for extremists looking for their next target.
It invites trespassing, biosecurity breaches and industrial sabotage. Big words that include real threats to the physical and emotional safety of Queenslanders living in isolated settings due to their business as farmers.
That such aggression is being carried out by a registered charity is a slap in the face to all taxpayers.
How can we allow extremists to terrorise their fellow Australians? These are citizens and taxpayers who are conducting legal businesses to support their own families. These are people who work to produce safe, high-quality food. They not only put food on the tables of the nation, but they help feed the world and in doing so, form a pillar of Queensland’s economy. No farmers: no food.
Both the state and federal governments must respond. For starters, the federal government should strip this group of their charity status, forthwith.
More importantly, we must update the legal protection of privacy in the light of social media and technological advancements.
Take the state laws against trespass. These see trespass as involving physical entry. Unfortunately, that does happen. We have seen cases of animal activists entering farms in the dead of night to “take action”.
But nowadays, activists could also use drones or hack into a farmer’s digital business records. We need to update how we think about trespass, harassment and sabotage.
The other key issue is simply the individual’s right to privacy in a digital age. The Aussie Farms attack shows that without privacy laws in a digital age, we are open to attack at both a personal and at an industry level, city and country.
If the State Government is serious about Queenslanders’ rights, if the State Government is serious about protecting Queensland’s second biggest export industry, it will use the upcoming parliamentary year to move and pass laws to protect all Queenslanders from such actions.
Most importantly, such laws must provide a clear path to successful prosecution and enforcement. And there must be real penalties when the laws are broken.
David Vaile, an expert from the University of NSW, has been reported in Queensland Country Life saying that in most developed democracies – such as NZ, the USA, the UK, the EU, South Korea and Japan – individuals can sue for breach of privacy. At the very least, that should not be too much to ask.
HEALTH IN THE BUSH – HALOS AND HORNS
As the Member for Gregory, one of my greatest concerns is the health gap for country Queenslanders compared to our city cousins.
It is well known that country Queenslanders die sooner, are diagnosed later and receive less treatment, less follow-up care and rehabilitation and less disease management education than our city counterparts.
Take heart disease. Rural Queenslanders are 44 per cent more likely to die of heart disease than city Queenslanders. In some remote areas the figure is as high as 63 per cent. It is not acceptable for us to know this, yet continue doing the same things on the ground. We need to change the way we deliver health services.
The Heart of Australia project, founded by the wonderful Dr Ralph Gomes, is a great example. It began with a single mobile cardiology clinic, visiting rural Queensland. Funded through partnerships with groups like Telstra, RACQ and Rotary. It now provides specialist medical services in cardiology, endocrinology, sleep medicine, psychiatry, geriatric medicine, immunology, general medicine, neurology, gastroenterology and gynaecology. It brings Wickham Terrace to us.
By visiting one of two mobile clinics, rural patients can receive the same expert level of care in their home towns as if they lived in Brisbane. This is important because it addresses all the obstacles that patient travel incurs for country people.
The expense of airfares, accommodation and hospital and airport parking. The emotional costs of being alone at your most vulnerable, away from your own loved ones and trusting that others will look after your home and your business and your dependents while you are away. And doing it over and over again.
I am delighted that the federal coalition government will provide funding of $12 million to Heart of Australia. It recognises how vital this service is and it is a sincere attempt to address some of the problems. Best of all, Heart of Australia can expand to three mobile clinics.
If only the Queensland Government would do the same. I have begged the Health Ministers in both the first Palaszczuk Government and the current Palaszczuk Government to provide recurrent funding for a service which is delivering health care across a vast swathe of this State. I have even invited them to tour a mobile clinic with me. They have never taken me up on it.
I have written to Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles again asking him to reconsider his stance. We should not treat the people of the bush as second class citizens. The regions are earning Queensland record amounts of royalties. Health in the bush would be a good place to spend some of those royalties.
Gregory Health Round Tables
Of course rural Queenslanders accept we will have to continue to travel for many health services. However, the Government has a responsibility to assist us do that.
The LNP understands that and wants to hear your experiences as a rural patient having to travel. I am hosting Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates to round tables in Gregory in March and invite you to come along to a round table.
We want to hear the problems and the suggestions. This might be anything from issues with the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme, to accommodation difficulties, the expense of hospital and airport car parking, transport while you are in the city and the like. This will help us develop better policies in rural health.
One thing is for sure. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting better outcomes.
If you would like to attend please contact my office for further information: Longreach PH 4521 5700 Emerald PH 4913 1000. I hope to see you there.
Last but not least I must express my bitter disappointment that new CASA regulations will ground 80 per cent of Angel Flight’s volunteer pilots. As the Shadow Minister for volunteers, I know these guys are real, everyday heroes who volunteer their time and their planes to transport sick Queenslanders from rural and remote Queensland to city hospitals for medical treatment.
This is not emergency transport. This is ongoing medical treatments such as dialysis, burns and cancer patients and many others. Without Angel Flight many rural patients will not be able to afford treatment without moving to the city.
The bureaucrats who have made this decision have no idea of the scope of the problem or the distances involved.
Deb Frecklington, the LNP Opposition Leader, has written to our federal colleagues asking for intervention to stop this much loved and much needed charity from being shut down. I am still hoping there might be a reconsideration.
Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers