9 July 2024. Michael Guerin, AgForce CEO. 

The fact that AgForce must turn to the Federal Court in a matter of weeks to seek protection for our nation’s most significant groundwater system, speaks volumes about the abject failure of this Federal Government to understand what is at stake.

The agricultural industry is incensed that the Federal Government would rather question AgForce’s right to take legal action, than fulfil its elected responsibilities to the environment, to food security and to community wellbeing and safety.

AgForce has spent the past few years - not months or weeks - along with other lobby groups, seeking adequate protections for the Great Artesian Basin. It’s a precious water resource spanning almost 1.7 million square kilometres and relied upon by hundreds of rural communities across four Australian states.

We have sought on behalf of thousands of our members, producers and communities across Queensland - appropriate protections that properly reflect the value of this water resource that they rely on for life itself. 

Yet, in a breathtaking act of arrogance, the Federal Government has chosen a litigious approach to challenge our right to represent our members – which is the very purpose of AgForce – rather than deal with the substantive matter.

And this on the back of refusing to review the pivotal decision of February 9th, 2022, by the previous government – which the Federal Environment Minister has the power to do.  

That is all we have asked – and we know what a technical review of the proposal would say – the State Government completed one as part of its EIS review of the project. 
Yet we have now received a letter from the Environment Minister which instead demands AgForce explain the basis upon which it has the standing to bring this proceeding in writing, by close of business on July 5th, 2024.  That is what we have done.

Meanwhile, the Great Artesian Basin remains at risk of a project being allowed to pump industrial waste into it, as the State Government has chosen to turn aside the current Environmental Impact Statement but not decline the project itself.

The moratorium could be lifted at any point. The EPBC Act reforms so loudly promised by this Federal Government at the last election have been ‘kicked down the road’, and the dangerous precedent set by the then Federal Government on February 9th, 2022, remains in place to potentially allow other projects through. 

Make no mistake, the future of inland Australia, its towns, its industries and its immense beauty are on the line – and the Federal Government is now deliberately seeking to avoid protecting one of the natural wonders of the world.   

AgForce remains hopeful of avoiding court to resolve this but based on the actions of the Federal Government so far, we are increasingly resigned to the idea that we will need the courts’ capacity to protect something that should never be put at risk.