On Queensland Farmers, Sustainability and the State Election

On Queensland Farmers, Sustainability and the State Election

Note: This letter from the editor was originally published in our weekly newsletter and is being republished here.

Hey guys,

First off, thanks to those of you who entered our recent book giveaway. Winners have been drawn and emails to follow. I also received some email replies to my last newsletter about R U OK Day and I thank you for sharing your stories, for trusting me with your feelings and for taking the time out of your busy lives to reply. I am working through all the emails so please stay tuned for a response (and thanks for your understanding).

Now one email we received at EWP last week stood out for entirely different reasons. Sent from a communications agency, the email subject line read: 


Given that I live in Queensland, and I live on a farm (below is a pic of me in front of my unfinished glasshouse/greenhouse), I was intrigued so I brought up the email with a media release attached.

These were the first couple of paragraphs of the media release:

“Farmers across Queensland are uniting to gather a war chest aimed at targeting political parties ahead of the October 31 State Election.

Firstly, I cringed at the words “war chest”. 

“Farmers United Director Russell Hall is calling on all political parties to get serious about supporting the agricultural sector, saying Queensland farmers have been under the attack of poor policy decisions from the State Labor Government for far too long.”

And then I realised after reading this that this was a press release from an anti-Labor government farmers lobby group.

In the release, it also introduced fourth generation cane and crop farmer Mark Vasswho said “legislation driven by the Greens and introduced by the State Labor Government is crippling the farming industry and will ultimately impact every single Queenslander”.

The notion that the Australian Greens is influencing policy in the country’s most conservative state is almost laughable. 

In the glasshouse section of the new greenhouse.

Anyway, the Farmers United lobby group (funded by goodness knows who as there is literally no information about this organisation online and seems to have been created to stop a Labor government win in this year’s state election) is seeking the following policies to be adopted (which they’ve dubbed Science Sense):

  • Repeal the Water Quality Bill Reef Regulations that are “crippling Queensland farmers through unnecessary onerous green tape”
  • Reverse changes to the Vegetation Management Act “that are creating major fire and environmental hazards on farms”
  • The introduction of a Scientific Quality Authority to deliver scientific rigour around important policy making decisions;
  • Investment in an incentive program to support and encourage Queensland farmers to adopt and maintain government-led practice standards; and
  • Supporting new research and jobs in farming while encouraging the next generation of farmers to grow Queensland’s food into the future.

While some of the policy proposals seem reasonable and necessary such as the Scientific Quality Authority proposal, once you understand what they’re really asking for – less environmental regulation, more government funding and investment – you get to the heart of the issue.

Mark Vass said, “Like every farmer, I live, breath and spend my entire working life in the environment and take its sustainability extremely seriously” and I don’t doubt that Vass cares extremely about the environment in which he works.

The business of farming is not easy, having to deal with nature’s elements on a daily basis, having to plan around droughts and floods, manage vegetation (as part of a bushfire management strategy) harvest and allocate water, build and maintain equipment and infrastructure, and this doesn’t even include the paying back of huge debts and loans, and meeting cosmetic standards set by the supermarkets and other retailers.

I have lots of respect for our Australian farmers. Some of my neighbours are farmers (some cattle, some crop) and I understand why they take offence to urban dwellers sitting around philosophising about the environment and scolding farmers online on how they manage their land and basically treating them like criminals or worse, idiots.

What I have come to learn after the 2016 US election in which Trump was voted in, and the 2019 Australian election in which Australia’s conservative party was brought in again (despite pundits calling it “the climate change election”), is that we as a sustainability community need to find ways to be more inclusive of people who don’t talk, think or act as we do. 

From time to time, even I find the elitism, self-aggrandizing and self-righteousness annoying so I can only imagine what it’s like for those on the outside looking in. And since the US presidential election is just around the corner, the way we communicate matters of sustainability will also determine, to some extent, the outcome. Read my piece 8 Key Lessons From Australia’s Election and How to Move Forward (By An Environmentalist) if you’re a US voter keen not to make the same mistakes as Australia.


If we want to bring more people into the fold, we will need to meet them where they’re at. Even if you have ideological differences, you should still be able to find common ground. I find that almost all people I talk to want job security and stability, educational and economic opportunities, safe neighbourhoods, access to affordable and healthy food and healthcare, to drink clean water and breathe in fresh air.

So if your network doesn’t include a mixed bag of human beings from across the political divide, you’re living in an echo chamber. There is no point using your precious time preaching to the choir over and over again. If you’re spending time with people who already do zero waste, talk climate action, buy sustainable fashion and pick up three for the sea, I’m asking you to go further.

Positive change will happen much more quickly if you get outside of the eco minority and find ways to engage with others outside of the clique, aka people that make up the masses.

And don’t forget to donate to your favourite environmental organisations, progressive political parties and sign petitions like these ones from the Wilderness Society and this one (about Woolworths plastic toy promos) to keep the momentum going.

Quote I’m Loving This Week:

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Books I’ve Read:

Doco Films/Podcasts:

Anyway, best get a move on as lots of things to catch up on as we had some family arrive at the farm for school holiday adventures and we’ve got visitors currently here learning about self-reliance and permaculture which means I have to get organised! 🙂

Hope you all have a fabulous rest of the week!

Peace, love and all that jazz,

Editor-in-Chief Jen xx

Cover image of editor Jennifer Nini by Ben McGuire.

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