WATCH: Canegrowers launches scathing TV ad
THE peak body for Australian cane growers has launched a scathing television ad against the State Government's contentious reef protection bill.
The Canegrowers ad was screened during prime time on Thursday night and featured local growers sharing their concerns about the bill.
Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri said it was important for communities to hear directly from growers the message that there was "no justification for more intrusive red tape".
"The so-called reef bill currently before the Queensland Parliament proposes an escalation of bureaucratic interference in the sugar cane industry. It is an affront to growers," Mr Schembri said.
"We have been working under regulations designed to improve water quality for the Great Barrier Reef for a decade and the huge investment by growers in changing farm practices has been acknowledged in government reports as having an impact.
"The industry has been innovative and cooperative and growers are taking responsibility for their impact on the environment."
To reduce sediment run-off onto the reef, the State Government has proposed new powers to monitor and police water quality across 35 river basins.
The proposed Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill would force farmers to meet a regulated minimum standard to control run-off.
In order to enforce these changes, greater powers will be granted to the government to request data from the agricultural sector to verify the farmers' records.
But the proposed changes have come under fire from the region's farmers.
During the ad, Babinda cane grower Stephen said the issue had become a "political argument".
"I think agendas are at play - And we're the sacrificial lambs for that agenda," he said.
Mackay cane grower Mr Schembri said the bill had created uncertainty for farmers.
"You will have a situation where a single person can unilaterally change the goal posts," he said.
Mr Schembri said Canegrowers was open to talks with the State Government to find a "pathway forward".
In a statement, Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said she wanted to "set the record straight" regarding the Palaszczuk Government's reef protection measures.
"I have visited several cane farms, including in the Burdekin, Mackay, Bundaberg and the Wet Tropics regions, and we know many farmers have been doing amazing work to reduce run-off and improve water quality," she said.
"But unfortunately, the uptake of these voluntary practices has not been fast enough, and water quality has continued to decline.
"This is why we need reef regulations. It's what the scientists from the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce recommended in 2016, and this is what we are acting on. And we have been consulting on these changes for more than two years, through a dedicated advisory group, with input from both Agforce and Canegrowers."