The environmental lobby is jeopardising jobs and clean fuels

THE application of the ludicrous Wild Rivers preservation law on Cape York in Queensland provides further evidence that some green extremists have compeletely lost touch with reality. If the green lobby genuinely believed in social justice, why would it support a law that blocks the herculean efforts of local Aborigines to become self-supporting and break free from welfare? And why would the advocates of a cleaner planet oppose an indigenous enterprise to produce biofuel, as The Australian's Tony Koch reported on Saturday?
The Wilderness Society led the applause when the Bligh government declared the Archer, Lockhart and Stewart rivers on Cape York ``wild rivers''. The rivers are pristine because the local people have kept them that way, and they should be left alone to get on with looking after them as they develop industries suited to local conditions.
As international businessman Peter Holmes a Court found last week when he visited Cape communities at the invitation of Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson, one such industry is diesel, produced from pongamia trees. Each seed on the trees contains an average 42 per cent oil, and mature trees yield between 40kg and 250kg of seed a year. Diesel from the same variety of tree has been used in India for years.
The pilot scheme at Lockhart River, north of Cooktown, is proceeding because it was under way before the Bligh government enacted the legislation. As Koch reported, trees have been planted in fertile land, 25m from the river, which has been farmed for 50 years. But under the Wild Rivers legislation, future crops have to be planted a further 975m from the water.
You couldn't make it up. Yet this is the sort of madness that occurs when a government passes legislation to pacify the Greens, who directed preferences to Labor in 14 marginal seats at the March 21 election this year. As Mr Holmes a Court observed first-hand, the application of the legislation is ``horrifically unjust and immoral''.
Australia's remote Aborigines live in beautiful and exotic wilderness areas. If their extreme poverty and social disadvantage are to be overcome, however, the establishment of local industries is vital. It is unconscionable that it is some of the most vulnerable people in Queensland, in the backblocks of Cape York, who will bear the brunt of the Bligh government's appeasement of the Greens. With the green lobby seemingly incapable of facing reality, the government must repeal the law at the earliest opportunity.

Column: Leader
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Type: Leader