Agriculture is the backbone of Queensland’s economy. Along with resources and tourism, the agricultural sector is critical in supporting the development of the fastest growing state in Australia.
Agriculture embodies the values of hard work, risk-taking and entrepreneurship: the values which are central to the Australian way of life. Farmers, graziers and stockmen are an inextricable part of the Australian – and Queenslander – identity.
The products of Queensland’s $20 billion agricultural industry feed and clothe the world. Just last year, regional Queensland exported over $10 billion worth of agricultural products including meat, sugar, grain and cotton, the rest being distributed domestically to other states as well as the metropolitan Southeast.
Despite the significant and enduring contribution of Queensland’s agricultural sector, the burden of red and green tape is immense and continues to grow.
There are numerous ways to quantify the growth of environmental red tape (or green tape). A study published by the Institute of Public Affairs, Australia’s Green Tape Army: An analysis of the growth of the environmental bureaucracy and agricultural sector, analysed and compared the growth of Australia’s agricultural sector against the growth of the environmental bureaucracy at the federal level. This report applies the same methodology to estimate the size and growth of Queensland’s state environmental bureaucracy against those of Queensland’s agricultural sector since the year 2000.
Specifically, we look at total spending and staffing headcount and compare them against the state’s agricultural production and employed workforce respectively.
We find that since the year 2000:
- Queensland’s environmental bureaucracy spending has increased by over 550%, while the size of its agricultural sector has only increased by less than 170%.
- This means the growth of Queensland’s environmental bureaucracy was over three times the growth of the agricultural sector since 2000.
- The number of people in Queensland’s environmental bureaucracy has increased by more than 50%, while employment in agriculture throughout the state has halved.
- For every job created in Queensland’s environmental bureaucracy over the last two decades, over 40 jobs have been destroyed in Queensland’s agricultural sector.
Root and branch reform is required to provide relief to Queensland farmers affected by the volume of unnecessary green and red tape imposed on them by bureaucrats and their inner-city consultants.
Our recommendations are as follows:
- The Queensland government should implement a moratorium on all new environmental regulations being imposed on the agricultural sector for the next five years.
- The state government must introduce a one-in-two-out approach to introducing new regulation, whereby two pieces of regulation are repealed for every new one introduced.
- The state and federal government should coordinate and remove all environmental regulatory duplications affecting primary producers in Queensland.
In addition to these economy-wide recommendations, we also suggest a number of specific reform agendas to cut red tape and enhance the prosperity and output of Queensland’s agricultural sector. They are listed in the Appendix.