Speech to the Fitzroy Basin Association Muster (representing Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott)

Thank you very much Charlie Wilson, for your introduction, and for inviting me here to speak to you today.

I welcome Member for Flynn Ken ODowd, Councillor Brimblecombe, Neil Fisher, and Councillor Clyde Cameron.

I am delighted to be here today to represent Tony Abbott and with a person who, I hope, in the future will be able to help with government in many ways, the LNP candidate for Capricornia, Michelle Landry.

The environment is something which concerns us all, nowhere more so than in regional and rural Australia.

In the cities, some people mistakenly think that the environment is another country ... they do things differently there. And its easy to be sentimental about such things when youre sitting in an air conditioned office, shopping for imported fish at your local gourmet store while sipping a coffee made from Brazilian beans in a Chinese-made takeaway cup.

But right here in the heart of our country we understand that the environment is the essential element in our plans to create a resilient, knowledgeable, sustainable and profitable agricultural sector which will guarantee food security for Australians for generations to come. Its not something to talk about over a smart dinner party, its the basic building block of what we are trying to achieve, and the reason that groups like the Fitzroy Basin Association and its associated organisations across this great State of Queensland, are vital to all of our futures.

The Coalition recognises the value and importance of organisations such as this one, to the environment and to the future of our country.

Should we come into government when this current dysfunctional lot does the right thing for once and goes to the people, we will continue to support organisations such as this one which operate at the grass roots level, on the common ground between all resource users, providing a mechanism for communication and collaboration between the community, government and industry.

The contribution that groups such as these make to the environment, to improving practices for managing land and cleaning up our waterways and our water management and to finding sustainable and innovative solutions to problems being faced by rural and regional communities and by industries in those communities is invaluable and often under-recognised.

Should we come into government, as well as supporting groups such as the Fitzroy Basin Association, the Coalition, as part of our commitment to the environment will also establish a Green Army to assist with local environmental projects across the country.

Now I mentioned earlier that Tony Abbott has a commitment to practical measures to help the environment. He is very proud to say at least once every day that at the beginning of his ministerial career he established the Green Corps which did so much for Australia and, indeed, for the Rockhampton region where I launched a number of Green Corps projects. The truth is actually that Tony Abbott AND Ian Macdonald established the Green Corps, both as Parliamentary Secretaries in the early years of the Howard Government.

So our new Green Army will grow to 15,000 strong and is a key part of our environmental plan for Australia.

Groups of nine trainees with one supervisor, supplemented with volunteers will take direct action in conserving and cleaning our local environment and waterways. This workforce will be capable of delivering the skilled, motivated and sustained attention that large-scale environmental remediation needs.

They will be a great resource for groups like the Fitzroy Basin Association. Nobody knows better than you do what work needs to be done in your area. You identify what needs to be done and the Green Army will help you do it.

We intend that they will undertake projects like mangrove planting, riverbed and creek re-vegetation, boardwalks and walking tracks to protect local wildlife and revegetation and regeneration of local parks.

This is a practical and direct policy which will have the immediate and tangible result of improving the environment without involving bureaucratic red tape and multiple committees too afraid to make any decisions as is so often the case under the present government.

Over the two days of this Muster youll be hearing from local farmers who have been successful in implementing various programs, as well as agricultural experts, scientists and mining executives talking about grazing, farming, best management practice, waterways and coastal management, mining, climate, carbon, flood recovery, innovations and planning for the future.

The theme for this Muster is Share, coexist, prosper and this is a theme which is strongly backed by the Coalition.

None of us can prosper, in any industry, unless we can, together, develop solutions which allow all industries to work out sustainable ways of managing their resources.

We know that this century is being called the century of food security as more and more of the developing world becomes urbanised and food resources are becoming scarcer and less reliable and sustainable.

It is vital, therefore, that here in regional Australia, we make sure that our agricultural and grazing industries are resilient and adaptable to change and that is why conferences like this one are so important for our future.

Government has a role, of course, as far as ensuring that infrastructure is in place to allow farmers and graziers to operate with maxiumum efficiency water, energy, transport facilities, and so on, need government leadership.

But nothing can replace the willingness to share local knowledge and expertise between all the interested parties on the ground, as you are doing at this conference. I am very pleased to be here, on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, to congratulate you and join him in the confident expectation that your resolve to Share, coexist and prosper will be rewarded with a successful and innovative two days.

Good luck and thanks for having me with you.

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