Independent inquiry into Beattie tree cover-up needed

10th October 2005

An independent inquiry into allegations the Beattie government ordered the destruction of a Departmental report critical of Labor’s Vegetation Management Act was needed, Property Rights Australia (PRA) said this week.

PRA chairman John Purcell said the allegations from former principal scientist with the Qld Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Dr Bill Burrows, that he was ordered to remove all evidence of his team’s report from his computer hard drive deserved a full and open investigation.

“The allegations by Dr Burrows are extremely serious and if proven, amount to political corruption at the highest level of the Beattie government,” Mr Purcell said.

Mr Purcell said Dr Burrows, whose 40-year career researching the ecology and management of Queensland’s grazed woodlands put him at the forefront of woodlands management in Australia, had documented his allegations and was not about to give up and go away.

“It’s clear the report from Dr Burrows and his team didn’t fit Beattie’s political agenda to shore up green support in the city and so he was told to wipe it from his computer,” Mr Purcell said.

Dr Burrows, who says the Beattie government’s vegetation control laws are not based on science, estimated tree/scrub thickening would cost Queensland farmers roundly $293 million a year and the community at large a minimum $900 million a year.

Mr Purcell said the report by Dr Burrows and his team eventually found its way to the public, but was then savagely attacked by the Beattie government.

“Dr Burrows and his team have been treated with complete contempt by the Beattie government and yet their report has been totally vindicated by the findings of the Productivity Commission of Inquiry into the Impacts of Native Vegetation and Biodiversity Regulations released last year and more recently by the independent ABARE study which found major flaws with the Beattie government’s vegetation laws, highlighting that landholders have borne the major financial burden of controlling pests and weeds as the Beattie government has cut its spending on pest and weed management on State land in recent years.

“ABARE found Queensland farmers were struggling under Labor’s vegetation laws and so were spending less on pest management which means even more feral animals and weeds are not being controlled across the State.”

Mr Purcell said Dr Burrows was very clear about his findings on the cost of Beattie’s vegetation laws to Queensland farmers.

“He is absolutely clear about being instructed to delete all his team’s findings. So the big question is … when does government action to remove all evidence of a report such as this equal to official corruption?” Mr Purcell said.