Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce talking with Stanage Bay property 'Couti Outi' owner Lawson Geddes on February 3, 2017.
Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce talking with Stanage Bay property 'Couti Outi' owner Lawson Geddes on February 3, 2017. Kerri-Anne Mesner

Compulsory acquisitions off the table for Shoalwater expansion

"IT COULDN'T be a better result,” Couti Outi property owner Lawson Geddes said in reaction to news the Prime Minister had taken compulsory land acquisitions off the table.

Mr Geddes and his family hosted Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce on Friday, along with 30 landholders and business owners, about the proposed compulsory acquisition of prime agriculture land for the expansion of Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.

The topic of compulsory acquisitions has been cause of raw, painful debate between the landholders, business owners and politicians for four months.

It all started with landholders receiving letters from the Department of Defence about land acquisitions in November and unravelled from there.

From talks of up to 100,000 head of cattle being removed from Queensland to the possibility the township of Marlborough becoming a ghost town, the issue caught fire.

Between people power and the attacks by many politicians including One Nation Party leader Pauline Hanson, ALP Federal politicians Joel Fitzgibbon and Murray Watt, and State ALP MPs Bill Byrne, Brittany Lauga and Jim Pearce.

LNP politicians were also in the mix with visits from Defence Minister Marise Payne and Mr Joyce.

"It's been excellent, the support we've had,” Mr Geddes said.

Yesterday's news came after Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce's public hounding last week by high profile media personalities including John Laws who, while interviewing the PM, said "Why do we have to take land from Australian farmers? I find that infuriating and I also find it extremely stupid. Why are we giving that land to the Singaporean troops to train? Why not put them in the Simpson Dessert?”

The Prime Minister exclusively told The Morning Bulletin yesterday "any sales will be by willing vendors”.

"On Monday I called a meeting with local members to discuss the expansion of the Shoalwater Bay And Townsville Field Training areas,” Mr Turnbull said.

"After hearing their concerns and concerns of the community I have decided no land owner will be forced to sell their property.”

He said the Coalition Government will continue with the $2.25 billion project which will create jobs and provide economic security for residents in the region.

Defence Minister Marise Payne yesterday said the outcome the Coaliton came to included the master planning process continuing and will be finalised "within a fortnight or so”.

She said the KPMG study, which is the socio economic study looking at the impact on the 'more urbanised areas' of Townsville and Rockhampton as well as the smaller villages, the communities and towns will be published slightly after the master planning process.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry welcomed the news.

"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,” she said.

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.

CQ ALP politicians welcomed the government's u-turn, describing it as a win from 'people power'.



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