Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Amendment Bill
ENDANGERED FAUNA (INTERIM PROTECTION) AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Ms ALLAN (Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [8.00]: I move:
The Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Amendment Bill extends the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act 1991 until May 1996, by which time New South Wales will have strong, comprehensive legislation covering all threatened species and all ecological species. Currently there are 234 species of fauna listed as endangered in New South Wales. Some, such as the Lord Howe Island woodhen, are found nowhere else in the world. Others, like the yellow-footed rock wallaby, occur elsewhere in Australia and, though not yet endangered nationally, must contend with a host of threats, including habitat loss and fragmentation, habitat degradation, the introduction of exotic species, direct exploitation, pollution, and cumulative effects.
Plants have not suffered to the same extent. However, at least 30 species known to have occurred in this State at the time of European settlement are now extinct. Legislation covering endangered species and ecological communities has been enacted by Victoria, Queensland and the Commonwealth, and is currently proposed in both Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. Endangered flora legislation has been operating in Western Australia since 1980 and parallel provisions for fauna are proposed. In New South Wales the legislative basis for the protection of endangered species is the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1994. In 1991 the judgments of the Land and Environment Court, and subsequently the Court of Appeal, in the Chaelundi case resulted in a wider interpretation of the provision in the National Parks and Wildlife Act prohibiting the taking or killing of protected and endangered fauna. The prohibition now also extends to disturbing fauna habitat.
In December 1991, in response to the Chaelundi decision, the Labor Party Opposition in this State introduced, and the Parliament eventually passed, the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act. In brief, the Act amended the National Parks and Wildlife Act and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act so that proponents of actions which take or kill endangered fauna, including modifying habitat, must prepare a fauna impact statement, or FIS, and apply to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for a section 120 licence. As its title implies, the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act was intended as an interim measure pending the introduction of comprehensive species legislation. This Act was extended by the coalition, with Labor support, in the form of the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Amendment Act 1992 and the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Amendment Act 1993.
Unless the Act is further extended, it will be partially repealed on 1 October 1995. Provisions which would be repealed are the following: all the amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act which provide for the assessment of impact on endangered fauna, and section 98(5) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. If this clause is repealed, the people who obtain consent under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act for developments which will take or kill or significantly modify the habitat of any protected fauna, including possums, for example, rather than just endangered fauna, would need to obtain a separate licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This would lead to unnecessary delays in the development approval process.
While the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act represents significant advances in the conservation of endangered species which had been studiously ignored by the former coalition Government, there is no doubt that the current system for protection of endangered species has major shortcomings. There is no emphasis on the protection of critical habitat, no statutory provision for recovery planning, and no requirement for action planning to address threatening processes. These are crucial issues. Since the destruction of habitat is probably the single most significant cause of species extinction, any effective legislative model for conserving threatened species must ensure the protection of critical habitat. Legislation must also provide for species recovery and the control of threatening processes.
Recovery plans would detail the actions to be undertaken to restore a particular species or community to a position of viability in the wild, while threatening processes operating on more than one listed species or community across a large area would be managed through a statewide action plan. Other failings of the current system can be attributed to its lack of integration with the environmental planning system. However, I am also aware that there is a widely held view that the endangered fauna provisions of the current legislation are serving as a reasonable interim mechanism to curtail species endangerment in the short term. The State Government's commitments in relation to the conservation of threatened species and the introduction of effective threatened species legislation are unequivocal.
In introducing this bill the Government in no way resiles from its pledge to introduce comprehensive legislation. Extension of the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act will give the Government sufficient time to develop an agreed legislative proposal, release an exposure bill during this parliamentary session, and enact legislation in autumn 1996. The Government is acting to ensure that legislation is introduced as quickly as possible. I can confirm that the National Parks and Wildlife Service is in the process of consulting with Government stakeholders on a proposed legislative model, and has also held discussions with peak environmental groups on the general form and content of threatened species legislation. I have also
requested the service to undertake a review of the existing endangered fauna licensing system, in consultation with environmental and industry stakeholders, to consider its effectiveness in protecting threatened species and the efficiency of its operation.
I believe that this is an important and necessary step to take in view of the Government's commitment in the nature conservation strategy to continue with a licensing system in some form. I acknowledge that this general issue has been the subject of protracted consultation under the coalition, whose lack of commitment to introduce effective endangered species legislation was quite apparent. However, discussion and consultation to date have focused on the coalition's proposed legislation and the bill of the honourable member for Manly. It is clear to me that the Government's commitment to expand the scope of the legislation to include, amongst other things, flora and ecological communities will necessitate some important differences in approach and may have a significant impact on land use activities. In the circumstances it is absolutely essential to have focused consultations on the terms of the draft legislation and its operation. The real challenge is to achieve an effective and efficient regulatory framework that works in conjunction with other land use planning systems.
The Government has already taken the initiative to control land-clearing activities that are widely acknowledged as one of the major threats to threatened species protection and biodiversity conservation generally with the introduction of State Environmental Planning Policy 46. Other initiatives which will also have substantial benefits for threatened species will include our commitment to establish 24 new national parks and nature reserves within our first year of office - achievement of this objective is on track; the proposed establishment of a comprehensive system of marine parks based on the Great Barrier Reef model; protection of high conservation old-growth and identified wilderness forest through rescheduling of logging into regrowth forest; and the recent water package reform. After many years of management for extractive use, the provision of environmental flows to the inland rivers of New South Wales will mean real improvements in the health of our rivers and wetlands.
In many ways the National Parks and Wildlife Service is already pursuing the spirit of a more comprehensive approach to endangered species protection. For instance, the service has prepared detailed recovery plans for many species including the little tern; the brush-tailed rock wallaby; a formerly common vine in the Cumberland Plain, now restricted to a few small locations in this State; the small leaf tamarind, one of Australia's most threatened trees with only 30 adult trees remaining in their natural habitat; and the Wollemi Pine - only 30 individuals of this 90 million-year-old plant, which has survived ice ages and major warming of the global climate, remain in a remote section of Wollemi National Park. While these plans do not have the binding force of statute, it is a head start on the work that will be required under our endangered species legislation, which will ultimately lead to the protection of the biodiversity and ecosystems of this State. Ultimately, however, the enactment of threatened species legislation will represent the achievement of one of our most important nature conservation objectives.
Mr LONGLEY (Pittwater) [7.49]: I lead for the Opposition. The Opposition proposes to move amendments in Committee to ensure that the Labor Party is held accountable to its promises. Today the Labor Party faced a motion of no confidence because it has not honoured one of its core election promises that led to its being deceitfully elected to Government - the removal of the road tolls. That promise was never intended to be kept, with the result that the people of New South Wales will suffer this Labor Government. This proposed legislation is another attempt by the Labor Government to get out of a clear, definitive promise that was put forward in a document produced in February entitled "Nature Conservation Strategy", which stated:
That this bill be now read a second time.
Although Mr Carr reiterated that promise in a press release of 26 February, this legislation will break the promise and push the date back to May 1996. We have become used to the Labor Party doing whatever it takes, to use Graham Richardson's words, to achieve its ends. It may mean nothing to the Labor Party to walk away from commitments and promises, but it is not acceptable to the Opposition or the community, and particularly not to environmental groups. In that same document the Labor Party acknowledged the wider community when it said:
Labor will introduce comprehensive Endangered Species legislation following the expiry of the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act in December 1995.
A promise was made; it should be kept. The Minister talked about major shortcomings in habitat protection, and about the need for recovery plans. The Minister and the Government have had six months to fulfil that commitment. Extensive consultation has been held and draft legislation prepared in that time. What more is the Government after? This bill is another attempt to walk away from hard decisions, to delay the inevitable and to move into promise-breaking mode. When will it stop? The Opposition says it should stop here. I am surprised at the Minister's assertion that she does not resile from the Government's promises, when this legislation does just that. She said that the Government was acting as quickly as possible.
After years of discussions, proposals, alternatives and options, and after six months in government, it could hardly be said that this bill has been introduced as quickly as possible. Nothing appears to be happening. The Minister said also that the Government was consulting with relevant groups. I have long been a strong supporter of extensive and intensive consultation. The government has been in office for six months, and had plenty of time for
consultation before coming to office, so why is there this delay? The final form of proposed legislation should be available for discussion instead of hijacking the process by introducing this bill. As the Minister said, it is imperative that the new legislation achieve an effective and efficient regulatory regime.
The Opposition looks forward to efficient and effective legislation for the logging industry and the environment so that everyone will know where they stand. It is important that all sides are considered, that the process is conducted properly and comprehensively, and that the end result is effective and efficient. It is essential that the legislation cover flora and fauna - the vital area of habitat - and that recovery plans be included as well as the role of threatening processes. These factors need to be brought together into comprehensive legislation that will be to the benefit of the flora and fauna of the New South Wales environment. I foreshadow that the Opposition will move two amendments in Committee in order to omit the proposed date of 31 May 1996 and to insert 31 December 1995. In this way the Opposition will hold the Labor Government to its promise and the people of New South Wales will hold the Government accountable for its actions.
Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [8.00]: The issue before the House tonight is one that relates to the competence of the Minister and how well she is discharging her portfolio responsibilities. The Minister made clear a promise that she would ensure the introduction of comprehensive legislation so that this State had, on a permanent basis, a system for the protection of Australian wildlife and flora. Six months into the discharge of the Minister's responsibilities, this State has neither. After six months, we have this bill, which simply seeks to extend legislation introduced by the coalition Government back in 1991. The legislation has been around for a long time and has been examined by a parliamentary committee, which brought down a comprehensive report after a program of public hearings and public submissions. The Australian Labor Party made submissions to the parliamentary inquiry.
The Australian Labor Party, now in government with 48 per cent of the vote, undertook to the community to introduce legislation based upon its platform and its submission to the parliamentary inquiry. The Government has done neither of those things. The Minister for the Environment, after six months in which she has announced various initiatives - none of which come from her; half of them were my own initiatives when I was Minister for the Environment and the other half were imposed upon the Minister by her leader - has so far produced only this legislation, which is simply an extension of previous legislation. This bill is an indictment of the Minister and her competence and an indictment of the Labor Party stance in relation to environmental issues facing this State.
The State needs, and everyone will support, an effective system for orderly development that allows for the protection of our native species of fauna and flora. The State needs a system that allows for the introduction of recovery plans for our endangered species. The endangered fauna legislation was only ever intended to be interim. All of us know that the legislation does not make provision for all the issues involved in the preservation of endangered species; it does not go to their recovery. The bill simply protects habitat - and it does not completely protect habitat in every event, in that it simply introduces a licensing system requiring that in certain cases people obtain a licence to take or kill before they can proceed with an approved development.
The legislation advances nothing. Accordingly, we shall wait to see what happens between now and 31 May. Will this Minister prove herself to be incompetent, or will she have the ability and the courage to get through her caucus and Cabinet the appropriate legislation that will enable recovery plans, that will protect our flora as well as our fauna and that will allow for orderly development? New South Wales cries out for orderly development. The State cannot be stymied by a bureaucratic structure. One of the criticisms I had of the present legislation was that it allowed for the development of excess bureaucracy, but there was no alternative to that. This State cries out for a sensible approach to the environment and to industrial development. The Opposition will support sensible measures; it will not support a mere continuation of a system that is now four years old and was only ever intended to be temporary. What is at stake tonight is whether New South Wales gets good legislation in the future and whether the State has a Minister for the Environment who is up to the job.
Mr O'FARRELL (Northcott) [8.05]: I support the comments made by the shadow minister, and by the former Minister for the Environment. The Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Amendment Bill simply extends the operation of the previous legislation. It does not fulfil the commitment made by the Labor Party during the election campaign. It shows up yet another broken Labor Party election promise. The bill does not address the problems with the existing legislation, problems set out in the paper prepared by the Parliamentary Library and distributed today. The problems include the fact that the definition of fauna does not include endangered native invertebrates, many of which inhabit at least this side of the Chamber. The bill provides for the protection of endangered fauna but not endangered flora. The current system also causes some debate in that it provides additional cost to developers and places the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service under some pressure to grant licences.
As this is the first speech I will make in this place, I want to make a number of comments that do not go to the bill before the House. I stand in this place as the representative of the electorate of Northcott - the families and peoples of the 11 suburbs that make up the electorate, from Beecroft in the south to Hornsby in the north, from Warrawee in the east to Cherrybrook in the west. It is an area of natural beauty, an area of national parks and an area of native flora and fauna. Northcott is an area in
which people work hard to earn money to clothe and house their families and to ensure that their children are well educated, so that they receive a good start to life. A measure of their industry, their commitment to get ahead and their desire to enjoy the lifestyle and social amenity of the area can be found in the latest census figures.
The Northcott area has one of the highest percentages of two-income families in this State; one of the highest participation rates by women in the work force; and a high proportion of families paying more than $850 a month in mortgage payments. Nearly one in five of those who live in the electorate attend either a preschool or primary or secondary school. Understandably, then, Northcott is an area that the Liberal Party has represented at both the State and Federal level since the party's formation. Northcott contains those for whom my party was formed - the "salary earners, shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women" - those whom Menzies dubbed "the forgotten people." I pledge that they will not be forgotten by me for as long as I have the privilege to represent them in this place.
I replace as the member for Northcott my friend and former employer Bruce Baird. Bruce is someone whose legacy is writ large in the history of this State, through reform and revitalisation of transport, and someone who remains associated with our future through the 2000 Olympics. I will be more than satisfied with my parliamentary performance if I can achieve half as much as Bruce Baird did. I am proud of being a Liberal and of being granted the opportunity to serve the party as a member of Parliament. I am proud of the fact that my party is the only political party not beholden to sectional interests. We do not kowtow to business, labour or rural interests. Instead, we represent each equally. My colleagues the honourable members for Bega and Albury, Maitland and Camden, Vaucluse and Strathfield typify the sort of diverse representation that only the Liberal Party can provide at Federal and State levels. This whole-of-community representation is what allows us to make decisions based on what is right, not on what is demanded of us.
I recognise that neither Bruce Baird nor I would have had the opportunity to sit in this place without the support and endorsement of the Liberal Party. As a former State Director of the party, I fully understand that without that support I would have as much chance of being here as I would of becoming principal dancer for the Sydney Dance Company. Given the support that the party provides, it is incumbent upon me to ensure that my energies are put to good use for the Liberal Party and that I do nothing to embarrass or cause it discredit. That is a lesson that was unfortunately lost on those who made up the last Parliament and was, in my view, undoubtedly a factor that contributed to our defeat. As is the case for any political party, Liberal Party members ask just one thing of their elected members: to do all we can to ensure victory at the next election. In return, they give generously of their time, effort and funds to our campaigns.
I will do my utmost to fulfil those members' expectations of me, to try to provide them with a good return on their investment, and to do what I can to ensure that the Labor Party occupation of the Treasury benches is suitably brief. All of us enter this place with a set of beliefs, values and experiences that we hope will add to party-room and parliamentary debate. Obviously, my political philosophy is Liberal. It is liberal in its concern for the rights of the individual and it is conservative in its respect for the values of the past, and recognises the limitations of both individuals and government. Many find it difficult to come to terms with the existence of both liberal and conservative strands in Liberal Party philosophy. Countless pointless debates occur on the issue and I appreciate that nothing I say will end them. However, for me there is no difficulty; instead of a problem, I see a strength.
The two strands allow my party to tackle issues and govern in a way which builds upon those good elements of the past by adding those positive components from our changing society. For instance, I share the view that only a Howard government could deliver significant constitutional change to Australia. Only somebody respectful of our traditions and structures will be trusted with such a task by an increasingly cynical electorate. I am comfortable with a Liberal philosophy which has always been characterised by pragmatism, not dogmatism. Our founder made no secret of this when he said, "We have no doctrinaire political philosophy." Not for him the ideological debates of Labor which locked them out of government for decades. Instead he and successive, successful Federal and State Liberal leaders have followed an approach which allowed government to adapt to changing circumstances in a never-static society. I am satisfied with the philosophy which has never proscribed government action as a way of solving the community's ills. Like Menzies I believe:
The failure to replace this legislation once it expires will jeopardise logging operations about the State and will compromise the protection of endangered species.
I am not comfortable or satisfied with those who seek to portray Liberal philosophy as simply being opposed to Labor, the flip side of the same coin. Of course we are opposed to Labor; but we oppose them because of fundamental differences in our philosophies and approaches to government. Nick Greiner won in 1988 not just because Labor was tired or corrupt or had brought in unpopular legislation. He won because he was putting forward a program of reforms, policies for more responsive government and for smaller governments which were in tune with our philosophy, our constituency and the wider community. Similarly a John Howard victory in the next Federal election will result from his tapping the sentiments of Australians and expounding programs and policies which reflect our Liberalism. Ideas, concepts and policies - in line with our philosophy and in tune with those we were formed to represent - should always be the hallmark of Liberals, in and out of office. Whenever we have remembered this we have been
electorally successful. And, of course, it is through such success that we can make our mark, improve society and ensure our party's survival.
Finally, to me Liberal philosophy also means a certain questioning of authority - not an anarchistic opposition to those in power, but a continual, healthy testing of the merits of legislation, the need for regulation and the desirability of Government action. Such an approach will not always find favour. To some legislative and regulatory edifices are a way of ensuring a place in history. It is, however, an approach consistent with the views of those who founded the Liberal Party and of others who have successfully held office in Liberal administrations. Any impartial review of the past seven years will demonstrate that the Greiner and Fahey governments embraced ideas, questioned the status quo, made their mark, and left those of us on this side well placed to regain government at the next election. Like my friend the honourable member for Lane Cove, I believe that as Liberals we pay too little attention to our past and, in this failure, we leave to the Demidenkos of Labor the task of writing - or more correctly reshaping - political history. My former colleague Gerard Henderson has written extensively on this point. During my time here I want to do something to try to correct this imbalance.
Any review of the 1988-1995 period has to start with the ideas which emanated from both John Howard and Nick Greiner in the mid-1980s - as they looked to redefine the role of government in modern Australia, as they questioned its traditional role and functions and as they sought ways to provide better stewardship for taxpayers' funds. The success of their pioneering approach is reflected in the fact that those ideas have now been embraced by Labor. Where once privatisation was anathema, Labor now privatises. Where reducing the size of the public sector was heresy, Labor Treasurers and finance Ministers now conform. And where once Labor shunned as idolatry cooperative federalism, we see Labor leaders worshipping. The achievements of the past seven years were real and have favourably influenced the lives of New South Wales citizens.
In education the coalition introduced policies based on equity, excellence, choice and diversity which had the effect of empowering those involved in education - parents, school communities, principals and the like. Such a strategy contrasted sharply with Labor's top-down, regulatory approach. In transport, we witnessed a return to profitable and responsible financial management, as well as a multibillion dollar reinvestment of our transport systems which Labor had allowed to fall into dangerous disrepair. In health we saw a clear commitment to direct resources to places where health needs existed regardless of their political complexion. The construction of 33 new hospitals and other policies resulted from a decision to produce the best health outcomes - rather than Labor's approach of the best political ones.
In policing, the Greiner and Fahey Governments did much to restore community safety through the introduction of beat policing and by significantly upgrading police training to ensure that those entering the force were better equipped to meet modern challenges. And finally, in industrial relations, through the efforts of the former Premier, the honourable member for Southern Highlands, we saw the implementation of a system which again empowered participants, removed entrenched authority and privilege, abolished compulsory unionism and provided safeguards against exploitation. Despite the defeat of the Fahey Government, these accomplishments will stand as symbols of what can be achieved when Liberals win government and are determined to put Liberal principles into practice. The regret that I have - and I am sure my colleagues have - is that we never had the majorities to entrench the changes and guarantee that successive governments could never wind back the clock. A strong democracy requires a strong Opposition.
Strong democracies are also characterised by regular changes of administration. While not usually appreciated by those who suffer electoral defeat, the fact remains that such change does have a community benefit. I stand here as part of a new Opposition which has the task before it of being both strong and successful. While we should rightly applaud our achievements of the past seven years, so too must we examine in our forums those failings we exhibited in office, in the hope that they will be avoided next time. For me, Opposition is a time for regeneration, a time for re-establishing and strengthening our community links. Above all it is a time for re-examining our beliefs, reaffirming our principles and redefining our policy objectives to ensure that, as in 1988, they are in line with our philosophy and in tune with our constituency. Such a process can succeed only if we honestly survey the past and are willing to consider and debate new, contemporary ideas. We must now adopt the skills and methods which, while not as important in government, are vital in opposition.
Opposition is not a time for trying to be a government in exile. It is not a time to use whatever political advantage an election may throw up to indiscriminately thwart a government's program. And it is certainly not a time to simply just sit back and await the return of the political pendulum. For me the biggest lesson of the past four years was the political bastardisation wreaked on this State by the so-called non-aligned Independents in concert with an unscrupulous Labor Party. Out the door went principle; in came political opportunism. Westminster tradition was traduced. The career of a great Premier, Nick Greiner, was outrageously destroyed. A so-called "balance of power" became a "balance of madness". At times, it seemed as if the lunatics - representing just 2 per cent of the electorate - were in charge of the asylum. And what inmates they were: an unreliable witness, a tax evader and someone who is usually found in more minds than Sybil.
On 25 March the people of Northcott strongly voted Liberal as they have since the seat was created. They wanted the Fahey Government returned, as did a majority of voters across New South Wales. That the election's outcome did not reflect their majority view is a matter for another debate. However, as a
member I will be doing what I can over the next four years to oppose Labor and act in accordance with the wishes of my electors. I will seek to oppose, to reveal their lies and tricks and to ensure that they are held accountable to the electorate in 1999. I do not believe that in opposition we should follow the same path as the Independents and Labor in the last Parliament.
I come to this Chamber strongly supportive of the two-party system. It has provided Australia and this State with the sort of stability longed for in other parts of the world. As a supporter of the party system, I believe that governments are elected to govern and that the only major limit upon them should be the requirement to answer to the electorate every four years. Only in exceptional circumstances do I believe that Oppositions should seek to use their numbers to vote down government measures. What exceptional circumstances? Well, any attempt to return our industrial laws to the past or any attempts to raise taxes and charges in contravention of Labor's so-called solemn election promises.
None of us enters this house without the support of a large number of people. I want to use my remaining time to pay tribute to some of those who ensured my electoral success and who have assisted me in this place. Firstly, I extend thanks to my local Liberal conference, seven branches - hundreds of members - who work tirelessly for the party within Northcott and provide funds and manpower in other seats. Led by Les Wallace, Nick Maley and Judy Hopwood - assisted ably by others like Betty Grant, Robyn Timmins, Brian Pape, Bill Bourke and Fiona Cummins - they worked hard to ensure the election of a candidate who was largely absent. Their commitment and patience were enormous and I am grateful for their on-going support.
Secondly, there are those for whom I have worked over the years, each of whom in his or her own way has imparted some wisdom - Senator Gordon Davidson who gave me a good grounding in political processes; Senator Tony Messner who taught me to count; John Howard who imparted the importance of ideas; Bruce Baird who demonstrated that Liberal ideas could successfully be implemented; and Bevan Bradbury and Bill Heffernan, both of whom made me understand that without loyal workers nothing can be achieved.
Thirdly, I want to thank a number of colleagues who have eased my transition - the small, but beautifully formed Liberal class of `95, we are but three but we have arrived with a determination to be heard and to succeed; the honourable members for Cronulla, Lane Cove, Gosford and Vaucluse, whose friendship and advice I value; my leader for his encouragement; and the staff of this place for their enduring patience.
Finally, not one of us enters politics without the support of family. They bear the brunt of our absences and the endless functions; they put up with our antisocial behaviour; and they take on additional family responsibilities - which at the present time include the selling and buying of homes. I am blessed with a wife who understands the pressures, whose father served as a Minister in this House and went on to the Federal Parliament. To her I will be eternally grateful. It is ironic that I speak on a bill about endangered fauna. My commitment tonight is not just to the survival of the Liberal Party species but to ensure its successful return to its natural habitat opposite.
Ms ALLAN (Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [8.20], in reply: I congratulate the honourable member for Northcott on his wise words and his ideas about recovery plans for the Liberal Party in New South Wales. One of the points that he made was quite salutary. In fact, his colleagues the honourable member for Pittwater and the honourable member for Gosford in their responses to the Government's proposed Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Amendment Bill were obviously not aware of the message he was about to deliver. The honourable member for Northcott emphasised that the role of the Opposition is not to oppose for the sake of opposing. The honourable member for Pittwater, who of course is also the shadow minister for the environment, demonstrated by his comments a complete and utter hypocrisy in respect of this legislation.
I mentioned in my second reading speech that on at least two occasions the former coalition Government extended the endangered fauna interim protection legislation. It did so with the support of the then Labor Opposition. We were happy to support that process because we believed it was the only reasonable thing to do, given that the Government seemed to be so tardy at the time in coming forward with its promises for eventual threatened species legislation. In my second reading speech I have given, chapter and verse, an explanation of what the Government intends to include in the permanent legislation that it proposes to bring forward in the autumn session next year.
Mr Cochran: How many timber workers will you put out of work?
Ms ALLAN: The honourable member for Monaro is still fired up after his showy performance as Madam Pam or Queen Pam this morning. I saw him lurking in drag, trying to impersonate me. He did a pretty good job. How will the honourable member be able to face his constituents in the future when, hanging his head in shame, he has to go to them and say, "We wanted to protect your interests, but unfortunately we are not interested in helping you; we are not interested in consulting."
Mr Cochran: You have already put people out of work. You claim to represent the workers but you are putting them out of work.
Ms ALLAN: The Opposition can talk for as long as it likes but the reality is that this Government is trying to include some decent consultation in the process of composing thorough threatened species legislation in this State. The speakers for the
Opposition in this debate have indicated that they are not interested in any consultation with those constituent groups that the honourable member was egging on today in their various demonstrations. He is not interested in the Public Land Users Alliance, or the various forestry workers or the mill workers. The honourable member is not interested in those people being consulted on what will probably be one of the major pieces of legislation introduced by this Government.
The Government wants to extend this legislation until May next year to enable that full process of consultation to occur, but the inane objections of the honourable member for Monaro and the inane performances of the previous two speakers for the Opposition have shown that the Opposition has no commitment to that consultation. Frankly, I find that surprising, given that during the past two to three years those opposite have been bleating in this Chamber about the fact that unless we get an effective form of consultation and an effective model of threatened species legislation in this State, the whole system will collapse. By their comments they have indicated that they are not prepared to consult with the relevant stakeholders, to consult with the industries concerned or to further consult with the conservationists. The honourable member is not interested in consultation. He would prefer a lame duck model of threatened species legislation to be pushed through Parliament before Christmas, probably not satisfying anyone; although it might just satisfy the honourable member's predatory instincts when it comes to the environment.
Given the proposals that were mentioned by the honourable member for Pittwater and the honourable member for Gosford, I do not believe it would be possible for the Government to come up with a comprehensive threatened species legislation model in the current parliamentary session. I indicated that in my second reading speech; I detailed the sorts of issues the Government will be seeking to address and has already raised with a series of interest groups in the various discussions it has had with industry and the conservation movement. I emphasise that the Government's proposed legislative model will go further than the current bill has attempted to go. For example, the Government will pick up on protection of endangered flora, which is not something that the current interim legislation does. That will involve widespread consultation with the building and construction industry, with the planners and with the local government authorities in this State, who I believe are very anxious about future models.
The whole question of recovery plans, which is something I raised in my second reading speech, is a very important component of the Government's proposed model for endangered species legislation. We have not seen an effective recovery plan model so far in the types of legislation adopted by other States. The Government's proposal will be quite significant and will entrench in legislation recovery plans for endangered species. That is something that the conservation movement has been clamouring to have for many years. It is appropriate that we consult with the various people who will be impacted on - industry, as well as the local communities and local government bodies - before we go down the path of putting that legislation through Parliament.
Having listened to the message that came from the honourable member for Pittwater, honourable members will be aware that his only concern is that this is a betrayal of Labor's environmental agenda; and the conservation strategy that it released in the March election campaign. I know that the honourable member for Pittwater has not had a lot to say during the last four or five months. Since he attained that auspicious position on the shadow cabinet he has issued about six or 10 press releases on environmental issues. Given that the Labor Government has set a cracking pace on environmental legislation, it is frankly astonishing that the honourable member for Pittwater has been unable to produce comments on the issue or on the rate of change to which the Government is committed. Where have his comments been on the dramatic issues on environmental reform that we have seen over the last couple of months?
Why has he not commented on the dramatic issues of environmental reform that have occurred over even the last couple of months - the landcare State environmental planning policy, the water reform package announced last week and the various initiatives for the protection of old growth forests? Tonight he had the hide to say that the Labor Party was betraying the trust of the conservation movement because permanent legislation to protect endangered flora and fauna might have to wait until May 1996 instead of December this year! Unlike him, I would like to get the model correct, and I will. This Government has set itself a much tighter timetable than the former coalition Government did in its last three or four years, when it ummed and ahed about threatened species legislation but did not deliver even a draft exposure bill for discussion out in the broader community. Because the National Party does not support the initiative, despite the feeble attempt of the former Minister for the Environment, the honourable member for Gosford, the previous Cabinet was not prepared to endorse his initiatives or those of the National Parks and Wildlife Service to bring forward the permanent models.
So it is hypocrisy for the honourable member for Pittwater to talk about Labor's betrayal of the environmental agenda when he has behind him a series of backbenchers, and even some frontbenchers, who have no interest in threatened species. It is an absolute priority of Labor that industrial interests as well as the conservation movement talk extensively through the draft exposure bill on this important issue that we intend to put out this session. It is not critical to enact the legislation before the end of this year; it is more significant to talk to the relevant stakeholders. This can be achieved by the community discussing the exposure bill and the legislation being passed next March. I will be disappointed if there is not bipartisan support from the Opposition for the legislation.
The honourable member for Northcott talked about a sensible approach to being in Opposition; Labor has adopted such an approach. We hope the coalition will bring forward its legislative model for the protection of threatened species. Coalition members kept saying that they were committed to it but in reality they were not. In contrast, this Government is committed to threatened species legislation. We want to protect both flora and fauna but we will not produce a model which has not been thoroughly talked through with all the relevant community groups. Given the rhetoric from members of the Opposition at the rally outside today, in supporting the Government's approach they would not be betraying all the people clamouring for consultation; they would support the Government in its current initiative to ensure that on this issue those same people are consulted widely.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Our first question is not whether the Government could do this thing, but whether private citizens could. If the answer is that they could, our answer is that they should. We deal with each case on its merits, without dogma or prejudice.
Mr LONGLEY (Pittwater) [8.34]: I move:
As I said during the second reading debate, it is clear that the Government has no idea what it means to keep a promise. The Minister for the Environment said that the coalition Government extended the previous legislation on two occasions with the support of Labor. That is correct, but it is no reason for Labor to break its promise. The Minister talked about consultation. Again, she has had six months in government to consult but obviously there has been no consultation. Labor had years in opposition to consult. If the Government is genuine, where is the legislation now? The Minister said it was not possible to bring in comprehensive legislation in the time allowed. If these were such significant considerations, why did Labor members not say so when they made the promise?
Labor members go to the people knowing that they are lying and that shortly afterwards they will break their promises. That is just not on. This is simply a question of holding the Government accountable for the promises it made; nothing more, nothing less. The Government made a promise and it knew what it was on about. It is now breaking the promise, and we are saying that that is not acceptable. The people of New South Wales also say that that is not acceptable. The Minister talked about betraying trust, and that is exactly what this is about. She talked about the importance of consulting. We agree, but what has she been doing for six months? We agree that the exposure draft should be circulated, but where is it? Let us see it. The Government is yet again breaking another promise. That is why I have moved the amendment.
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle) [8.37]: I speak against the amendment. In the chair earlier I had the dubious pleasure of listening to the honourable member for Pittwater delivering a lot of drivel about the former Government's commitment to endangered species legislation. The honourable member was hypocritical in saying that the Government in its first six months of office has not introduced endangered species legislation. When the Labor Government opened the box that contained the coalition's work on endangered species legislation, many moths flew out. In effect, very little had been done, and what was done was not agreed upon between the National Party and the Liberal Party. There was a problem about bringing the legislation forward. On the question of timeliness, consider the time the former Government had.
Much was made of the fact that the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act was extended with the concurrence of the Opposition. It was extended in 1991 until 1992, and in 1993 it was extended for two years. Although a committee received submissions and considered the matter, no comprehensive legislation was brought forward. The Government will have a proper consultative process so that it may prepare comprehensive legislation. The exposure draft will be available to the community. All the interest groups who are for or against endangered species legislation will have the opportunity to consult with the Minister and the department so that the legislation will have the broadest possible coverage and protection for endangered flora and fauna - which is extremely important to sustain biological diversity.
In the first 200 years of settlement there was a tremendous wiping out of diversity. Despite the fact that efforts have been made, we are at a stage where it is absolutely necessary that comprehensive endangered species legislation be introduced and accepted by the community. We must have recovery plans for all our endangered flora and fauna. There are a number of endangered fauna in my electorate, including the squirrel glider, for which such a bill would have to provide. I am sure that the honourable member for Coffs Harbour would agree that the squirrel glider is an important species. I refer also to the powerful owl and the koala. I pay tribute to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning for his recent decision with respect to ensuring that the koala habitat in the Port Stephens area is protected. I refer also to the regent honeyeater and the little tern. They are very important species for New South Wales. They should be protected.
Dr Macdonald: Get on with it.
Mr GAUDRY: The honourable member for Manly has just told me to get on with it. Getting on with it is very important, but we must make sure that the legislation is adequate. I am sure the honourable member for Manly would not expect the Government to introduce bits and pieces legislation. He is an
advocate of the environment. I hope the honourable member votes with the Government on this legislation.
Mr Hazzard: On a point of order: the Committee is dealing with amendment No. 1, which relates simply to a change of dates. The honourable member for Newcastle is referring to a whole host of issues which are not relevant to the amendment. Mr Chairman, I ask that you bring the honourable member back to the terms of the amendment - or we will be here all night.
The CHAIRMAN: Order! The honourable member for Newcastle is in order. He is referring to the amendment.
Mr GAUDRY: The date is relevant. The Opposition is attempting to force a situation of endangered species legislation being introduced that is not as comprehensive as the people of New South Wales would want it to be. I take great pleasure in speaking against the amendment. I ask members opposite to reconsider the amendment and allow an opportunity for the release of an exposure draft and adequate consultation with all sectors of the community, to enable legislation to be introduced and passed in the autumn session of 1996.
Dr MACDONALD (Manly) [8.44]: I support this amendment. However, it is somewhat hypocritical of the Opposition that it should seek to move such an amendment. The coalition had plenty of time to come up with decent legislation when it was in government. If this amendment fails in the lower House and gets through the upper House, the Minister will not have anything to worry about. It will just put some pressure on the bureaucracy to come up with decent threatened species legislation. I will not get myself into a lather over the allegation of broken promises. Certainly, the Government has had plenty of opportunities to introduce a comprehensive threatened species bill. The honourable member for Newcastle suggested that it would be wrong to cobble something together, which would be the case if we were to rush it through the Parliament before 31 December. I reject that suggestion. The Government made it very clear in its conservation policy that it would introduce endangered species legislation by December 1995. In fact, the Labor Party said:
Page 2, clause 3, line 13. Omit "31 May 1966", insert instead "31 December 1995".
In a sense, the Government has been dining out on the fact that it will introduce this legislation. An article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald about a month ago stated:
Labor will introduce comprehensive endangered species legislation following the expiry of the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act in December 1995. The failure to replace this legislation once it expires will jeopardise logging operations around the State and will compromise the protection of endangered species.
. . . the Government will introduce legislation next month which will:
Gazette two marine parks - Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands;
Protect all endangered plants under the State's first Endangered Species Act;
I have no argument with that. That would be excellent legislation if it were introduced. The Government is saying that there has not been adequate time for consultation. I believe that there is no need for further consultation. In fact, it is just a poor excuse for bureaucratic delay. It is a most important area of public policy. All of the relevant issues have been discussed during the year-long legislative committee process which culminated at the end of 1994 - almost nine months ago. A legislative committee examined the previous Government's bill. I introduced threatened species conservation legislation, which the Labor Party proposed to amend. Relevant community and industry groups have been consulted on this issue. This is the third time the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act has been extended. Protecting biological diversity has been shoved into the too-hard basket for too long.
New South Wales has one of the worst records of species extinction of any State in Australia and, indeed, the world, particularly with respect to mammals. Any delay in replacing the Act this year may result in the loss of more biodiversity. The draft legislation, which was prepared in my office, will extend the protection of the endangered species legislation to include endangered, rare and vulnerable plants. I am concerned that if we have to wait until May 1996, there may be a pre-emptive clearing of endangered flora utilising the minimum two-hectare exemption for vegetation clearance controls in State environmental planning policy 46. We could see a rush on this. It is imperative that this Government acts consistently with its promises and with the fact that it has 18 months in which to deliver. The Government has nothing to fear if the amendment is carried.
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle) [8.49]: I ask the Opposition whether it has taken into consideration its consultation on this issue with the Forest Products Association and the Chamber of Mines, because in accordance with the Chaelundi decision, if the legislation is not passed by 31 December operations in forests and mining areas will be closed down and a licence to take and kill will not be able to be issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. I hope the Opposition is aware of that. The effect of this amendment would be to create a situation that the Opposition has argued against strenuously
Mr LONGLEY (Pittwater) [8.50]: Clause 4 is also consequential upon the outcome of clause 3.
Question - That the words stand - put.
The Committee divided.
Develop "recovery plans" for endangered plants and animals to bring them back from the brink of extinction;
Establish "critical habitat" areas to ensure that the core habitats of endangered species are not disturbed.
Ms Allan Mr Markham
Mr Amery Mr Martin
Mr Anderson Ms Meagher
Ms Andrews Mr Mills
Mr Aquilina Mr Moss
Mrs Beamer Mr Murray
Mr Carr Mr Nagle
Mr Crittenden Mr Neilly
Mr Debus Ms Nori
Mr Face Mr E. T. Page
Mr Gaudry Dr Refshauge
Mr Gibson Mr Rogan
Mrs Grusovin Mr Rumble
Ms Hall Mr Scully
Ms Harrison Mr Shedden
Mr Hunter Mr Stewart
Mr Iemma Mr Sullivan
Mr Knight Mr Tripodi
Mr Knowles Mr Watkins
Mr Langton Mr Whelan
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr Lynch Tellers,
Mr McBride Mr Beckroge
Mr McManus Mr Thompson
Mr Armstrong Mr O'Farrell
Mr Blackmore Mr D. L. Page
Mr Causley Mr Peacocke
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Phillips
Mr Cochran Mr Photios
Mr Collins Mr Richardson
Mr Cruickshank Mr Rixon
Mr Debnam Mr Rozzoli
Mr Downy Mr Schipp
Mr Ellis Mr Schultz
Mr Fahey Mrs Skinner
Ms Ficarra Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Fraser Mr Small
Mr Glachan Mr Smith
Mr Hartcher Mr Souris
Mr Hazzard Mr Turner
Dr Kernohan Mr West
Mr Kinross Mr Windsor
Mr Longley Mr Zammit
Ms Machin Tellers,
Ms Moore Mr Jeffery
Mr O'Doherty Mr Kerr
Mr Clough Mr Beck
Mr Harrison Mr Chappell
Mr Yeadon Mr Tink
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee without amendment and passed through remaining stages.