Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The SA Draft Pastoral Lands Bill 2020 Is Corrupt


Written by: Fred Kelly on 27 January 2021

Due to the nature of capitalism, in the contradiction between sustainable practices and the profit motive, the profit motive will always be the principal aspect, while sustainable practices play a subordinate role. 

This is shown, for example, by the slow reaction of the world’s countries to come face to face with the climate crisis, while we, the general population, the workers, the future generations, are knocking on the door of a world-wide catastrophe. Policies and international pacts have been made, but truly, the international capitalists are trying to scrape out of this doing the bare minimum! 

This is evident in Scott Morrison’s refusal to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and his proposed plan of a ‘gas-led recovery’ out of the Covid-19 recession. Capitulation to sustainable practices will generally be made in the name of profit; these capitulations may serve to dull a popular mass cause, or, to solidify future profits because if sustainable practices aren't put in place there will be nothing to extract profit from in the future. To put it simply, the quick buck or the long play. Land conservation policies will generally have one or both of these aspects in mind.

When land is cleared for grazing and that land is overgrazed and/or a drought kills off the ground cover flora, the topsoil becomes loose and contributes to the available soil a dust storm can draw from. Australia already has a history of overgrazing and land clearing, and coupled with regular drought, Australia has seen many a severe dust storm. Now we face climate change which threatens an increase in frequency and intensity of drought, creating conditions for the increased frequency and intensity of dust storms. On January 11th, 2020, Australia was hit by one of these dust storms, visible from space by NASA satellites (see image above). Additionally, there are areas in Australia that are experiencing drought with the lowest rainfall on record. With current land practices, the future is grim.

In South Australia a new bill has been proposed, the Draft Pastoral Lands Bill 2020, which is to replace the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act of 1989. As the removal of conservation from the title may suggest, these changes are not in the interest of sustainable practices. This new bill has the quick buck in mind. It is likely to increase allocated watering points and maximum stocking limits of livestock on pastoral leases. This promotes overgrazing and draining of our natural water bodies.

The SA Pastoral Board members administrate 40% of all land in SA, with 1-2% of that land designated as conservation land. The Pastoral Board, whose six members appointed by the Minister of the South Australian Department of Primary Industry, in accordance with the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act of 1989 requires the board consist of: (1) someone with experience in administration of pastoral leases; (2) an ecologist; (3) a soil scientist; (4) a beef cattle pastoralist; (5) a sheep pastoralist; and (6) a conservationist. It is currently unknown if the board is legally comprised in accordance with the bill; further, six out of six board members are from agricultural backgrounds who hold pastoral leases. The Chairman of the board is David Larkin, the CEO of Hancock Agriculture and Australian Outback Beef, both companies owned by Gina Rinehart. You can infer where the interests of the Pastoral Board lie. 

It gets worse from here. The Draft bill keeps the facade of requiring a diversification of backgrounds on the Pastoral Board while gutting it of any real substances. It is proposed that the Minister will appoint up to seven board members who must have knowledge or experience in one of the following: (1) operational management of pastoral leases; (2) natural resource management and conservation of productive pastoral land; (3) governance; (4) financial management; and (5) native title and the cultural and traditional connections of Aboriginal people to the land. There is no requirement that the board be comprised of members from each category. Hypothetically, 100% of the board could be comprised of people with experience in finance management and nothing else. 

Australian Outback Beef has stated objectives of increasing the number of watering points on their pastoral leases, which would effectively increase the number of cattle on their properties. Both the allotting of new watering points and increase in cattle stocking limits must be approved by the Pastoral Board, again, whose chairman is the CEO of Australian Outback Beef. And with the changes made in the Draft Bill, there might not be any push back (if there is any currently). 

The Draft Pastoral Land Management Bill 2020 must not be put into law. It will only serve to profit those whose interests lie with the degradation of our environment. 

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