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Janet on land clearing in NSW and QLD

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 6 Feb 2018

This is a response to a resolution of the Senate of 16 August 2017. The motion, moved by my colleague Lee Rhiannon, was about land clearing in New South Wales. It asked the New South Wales government to delay implementation of its new controls over land clearing because of concerns that they wouldn't meet federal standards in the Commonwealth offsets policy under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and some uncertainty as to whether the proposed clearing would require Commonwealth approval. The Senate called upon the New South Wales government to delay setting a commencement date until there was more certainty, in particular until the mapping that's required to make informed decisions about land clearing had been completed and until there was certainty about offsets in New South Wales meeting Commonwealth standards.

The response from New South Wales government, which we are taking note of today, is incredibly inadequate and does not address the issues that the Senate was asking them to consider. All they have basically said is that they will continue to work with the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy to develop clarity for landholders, will work closely with landholders and are working to build general understanding around the requirements and processes for meeting Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation requirements.

This is totally inadequate when you think of what the implications of this are going to be. It means there will be land which is going to be cleared with the support of the New South Wales government that has got incredible biodiversity value, that should be being protected because of the national and Commonwealth controls under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and yet the New South Wales government is going to allow this to occur. Certainly, my colleagues and I will be pursuing this issue because land clearing in New South Wales and in Queensland is continuing apace. It has escalated in recent years, it is contributing to a massive increase in our carbon pollution and the consequences of losing this vegetation are dire. They are dire for the plants and animals that depend upon this vegetation. It means that threatened species are becoming more threatened. They're becoming critically endangered. We are seeing birds and other animals on a trajectory towards extinction because of the sort of land clearing that clearly is going to be approved by the New South Wales government and by the Queensland government

And the Commonwealth has got a role. We need to make sure the conditions and controls that are in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act are applied rigorously, and it is very clear that, under the provisos and under the rules that are being set by the New South Wales government, that isn't occurring. So, for the future of our Australian plants and animals, I'm determined that we will continue to pursue this so that we actually will be able to protect these critical areas of native vegetation for our future.

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