Feisty federal MP Michelle Landry has welcomed a pledge from the Prime Minister this morning that no landholder in the Shoalwater Bay district, north of Rockhampton, will be ‘forced’ to sell their properties’ to Defence.
Today’s pledge has been linked to an intense 24-hour period described by parliamentary colleagues as being directly due to “hard-nosed” lobbying by Ms Landry since she arrived back for the first week of federal parliament, yesterday.
“The Prime Minister has today provided me with assurances that no landholder or famers will be forced to sell their properties. He has clearly ruled out forced sales to Defence.
"This will come as a big relief to local landholders. I promised the stakeholders impacted in the district that I would sensibly and firmly push, behind the scenes, to ensure that their concerns over the possibility of forced land sales were heard at the highest levels of the federal government.
"I thank the Prime Minister for listening to me and our farmers on this issue behind closed doors. I did not mince my words, when making it clear to him that Defence was dealing with people’s homes and livelihoods.”
Farmers that do want to voluntarily sell to Defence will, however, still be able to apply to the Commonwealth directly themselves to have their land acquired for use by the military, under a move that could provide them with greater financial compensation. But there is no guarantee that Defence will want to purchase every block on the open market.
“We know there are landholders who want to sell and we know that there and landholders who don’t want to sell. So, this pledge will provide a sense of relief to both groups,” Ms Landry said.
In the past 24 hours ahead of the Prime Minister’s pledge, the hard-working Federal Member for Capricornia:
Met directly with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne for ‘intense and robust’ talks about the issue
Loudly addressed a closed party room meeting of National Party MPs and National Party Ministers, including Barnaby Joyce conveying the plight of local stakeholders
And roused her federal National Party MPs to also stand up against forced sales of valuable farmland in the Shoalwater Bay-Marlborough district.
Today’s assurances from Mr Turnbull, also follows a visit on Friday by Ms Landry and Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader, Barnaby Joyce to “Couti Outi” – one of the properties Defence had earmarked on their expansion maps.
There they met with a group of local landholders, small business and workers representing the entire district.
“It is very clear that the National Party in Canberra and now the Federal Coalition stand with landholders to say, we do not want to see people to be forced by Defence to sell their farms under the Shoalwater Bay military expansion,” Ms Landry said.
Ms Landry said Defence clearly erred when they flagged the scenario of ‘forced’ land sales as a last resort with landholders, late last year.
Ms Landry reiterated that the $2.25 billion capital injection under the joint Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) with Singapore was good for the Queensland economy. But said it was a relief for farmers to know that will not be forced sell their land and homes.
“Under the Shoalwater upgrade, nearly $1 billion dollars will be spent north of Rockhampton. This revamp will create important business spin-offs for the city in construction, logistics, transport, tourism, retail, hospitality and accommodation.
"Visiting Singapore troops already inject $35 million locally.The upgrades of ADF zones are also part of Australia's own national security needs - training our soldiers to be protect us from the growing threats of terrorism in our own backyard,” she said.
“I have previously stated that I support this investment and I still do. But I also support our farmers. As a result I do not support a situation where they were forced involuntarily to sell their homes and land.
“Any expansion plans by Defence must now be an open market arrangement where property owners are willing to sell or want to be acquired.
"Last year, I promised landholders that I would ensure that their voice of concern was heard at the highest levels of our executive government and I have delivered on that promise,” Ms Landry said.