Update, 4pm: Greens leader Christine Milne has rebutted comments by mining magnate Andrew Forrest likening environmental “extremists” to spoilt children.
Speaking at the annual Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA convention yesterday, the Fortescue Metals Group founder, who three years ago bought back his family’s Pilbara cattle station Minderoo, where he grew up, said farmers were "the greatest environmentalists I know".
He said farmers who had historically cleared too much land had acted on the best science available.
"Now I hear ’Hang on, they razed thousands of acres to the ground, they cleared way too much, they did this, they did that’. Absolutely they did, on the best science available.
"If we could just look at your career Mr Critic of the farmer and just wind back through what you did and wind back through what your forebears did, I can assure you their mistakes were bigger on the best science available as well."
He said people who criticised farmers were too far removed from primary industry.
"I think extremism and over- regulation are very real issues," he said.
"When you spend your life going for everything you need down to Coles, and after a generation or two you are separated from where all that came from, you are separated from the reality that the food in your belly and the roof above your head all came from primary industry, you tend to take things for granted a lot like spoilt children will take things for granted.
“I use that analogy because if you are an extremist and you are trying to back down on the mining industry and back down on the agriculture industry you are actually forgetting everything that is critical to you.”
Mr Forrest complained of how long it took for him to get environmental approvals for works at the Minderoo farm.
Senator Milne accused Mr Forrest of trying to remove environmental regulations so he could have unlimited access to land for mining.
“Make no mistake the extremism being practiced in Australia today is from the mineral resource industry”.
Senator Milne, who grew up on a Tasmanian dairy farm, said the Australian Greens were committed to protecting farm land, including campaigning against the coal seam gas industry and for country of origin food labelling.
“The Greens and country people and farmers have a lot we agree on and a lot we can work together on,” she said.