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Burke rejects allowing national parks cattle grazing

By Gail Burke, Chrissy Arthur and Amy Phillips, Thursday May 16, 2013 - 20:29 EST
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A third of Queensland is drought-declared. - ABC

The Queensland Government has accused the Federal Government of stirring up the biggest animals rights issue in Australia by rejecting its proposal to allow starving cattle to graze on conservation reserves and national parks.

With a third of Queensland now drought-affected, Queensland National Parks Minister Steve Dickson says he will keep lobbying federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to change his mind.

"What we're here today to do is get starving cattle to eat food rather than dropping dead in paddocks - they're the options we have - let them die in the paddock or do something about it," he said.

"I'm sure Mr Burke will see the common sense in that."

Mr Dickson says the Federal Government risks an animals rights disaster, with 25,000 animals that may die from starvation.

"I don't know why anybody would want to get in the way of stopping cattle staying alive," he said.

"You look at what happened in Indonesia not so long ago - I think everyone jumped in the air because there was awful things happening over there with the abattoirs.

"That's been resolved - let this not be another crisis, let's do the right thing, let's pull together and save these cattle's lives."


But Mr Burke says he will not be swayed.

"There's $60 million on the table right now for Queensland farmers for interest-free loans that [Premier] Campbell Newman's refusing to sign up to," he said.

"It is just absurd for them to say that this is the only option, when everyone else in Australia is able to find options that don't involve wrecking national parks.

"National parks are put there as a reserve for families to be able to go and enjoy nature - that's what they're for.

"They're not farms, they're not rifle ranges, they're not there for the purposed of massive land clearing.

"They're there for the purpose of having some parts of our country reserved for people to enjoy nature."

The RSPCA says drought-affected cattle should be allowed to graze in certain Queensland national parks.

RSPCA spokesman Mark Townend says politics should not get in the way of a pragmatic solution.

Mr Townend says thousands of cattle could starve.

"Drought assistance may help but in this situation you can't get to those cattle - you can't actually get feed to some of these cattle," he said.

"This is the most most efficient way to feed those cattle before they die.

"Some of these national parks - they're not pristine wildlife areas.

"Some of them were actual rural properties and I think it was a good approach by the State Government and I'm very disappointed the Federal Government hasn't taken up that cudgel."

'Outrageous' opposition

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney says the Queensland Government will proceed with its plan, saying the opposition to the proposal is "outrageous".

He says the Federal Government did provide funding to help purchase some of the properties, so it is appropriate to seek their cooperation.

"We believe this is just such a common sense response to a critical animal welfare situation that we will proceed in Parliament next week to amend the legislation," he said.

"We don't need anyone's permission to change the state legislation.

"It is only the issue of the funding that was made available to buy these properties - we are not going to be put off."


© ABC 2013

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