Queensland Law Society

QLS renews calls for changes to unjust and backward land clearing laws

Date 16 Aug 2016
Contact Tony Keim
Phone 07 3842 5835
Mobile 0488 433 884
Email media@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society renewed its call for amendments to the state government’s proposed controversial tree clearing laws, saying the passage of laws would be a travesty of justice for the state’s landholders.

Society president Bill Potts said the Palaszczuk Labor Government’s planned changes of its Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, introduced by Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, were unjustified and a step backwards for justice in the state.

In particular, Mr Potts was scathing of a plan to introduce a reverse onus of proof making landholders guilty of any illegal tree clearing until they could prove themselves innocent.

“That is akin to a person coming home to find a dead body in their backyard and being considered guilty of murder until they can prove themselves innocent,” he said.

Mr Potts said that the Society acknowledged the need for laws protecting the environment, but not at the cost of legislated injustice.

“Our state’s natural beauty is one of its greatest assets, and it is our view that it can be protected without trampling the rights of citizens," he said.

“It isn’t too late for the government to properly consult with all stakeholders and come up with just and workable laws; rushing them through as they are now is a recipe for chaos.”

The comments come as the Queensland Parliament is scheduled to debate the proposed law changes.

More than two months ago Mr Potts addressed the Parliamentary Agriculture and Environment Committee in Brisbane to address QLS’s concerns.

At the time, Mr Potts likened the proposed changes to land clearing laws as being as unjust and comparable to the Newman LNP Government’s stance on anti-bikie laws.

He said the proposed bill reversed the onus of proof to require landowners to prove their innocence and eliminated the defence of mistake and applied the changes retrospectively.

“The government’s justification for these changes is, quite frankly, feeble and appears based on administrative convenience,” he said.

Mr Potts said it was ironic that the government was proposing such changes given that the recent VLAD taskforce report criticised similar provisions in the bikie legislation.

Mr Potts added that QLS fully supports people who commit acts of serious environmental harm being prosecuted with the full force of the law.

ENDS

For further information, please contact Tony Keim on 07 3842 5835, mobile 0488 433 884 or via email, media@qls.com.au.