ENDANGERED FAUNA (INTERIM PROTECTION) AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK (Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Minister for Tourism, and Minister Assisting the Premier), on behalf of the Hon. R. J. Webster [8.18]: I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act 1991 made a number of changes, some of which were expressed to expire on 1 December 1992 or on any earlier date on which replacement endangered species legislation was enacted. In late 1992 the Government amended this legislation to ensure the further extension of these provisions until 1 October 1993 while a comprehensive package of legislation for the protection of endangered fauna was formulated.
As honourable members will be aware, the Government introduced its Endangered and Other Threatened Species Conservation Bill 1993 into the Parliament in May 1993.
However to ensure viable and effective legislation which all members of the community can support and which can achieve the commonly accepted objectives of ecologically sustainable development, the Government has agreed to the establishment of a legislation committee to examine the range of legislative proposals which have been put forward since May 1993.
In the meantime, action must be taken to ensure the provisions of the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act do not expire on 1 October 1993. The purpose of this bill is to extend the operation of those relevant provisions until October 1995.
The specific provisions on which an extension is required are as follows:
The inclusion of a defence to the offence in section 98 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 of taking or killing protected fauna (other than endangered fauna). This defence enables a person to carry out development in accordance with a development consent under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 or an activity for which part 5 of that Act has been complied with. The defence is necessary because the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act extended the meaning of "take or kill" fauna to "include any significant modification of the habitat of that fauna which is likely to affect its essential behaviour patterns". The Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Amendment Act 1992 extended the date on which the defence expired until 1 October 1993. This bill further extends that date until 1 October 1995.
An amendment to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 included the additional requirement for a fauna impact statement for development consent and for any environmental impact statement under part 5 of that Act. The Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act 1991 made that requirement for all protected fauna but the Timber Industry (Interim Protection) Act 1992 limited its application to endangered fauna. The Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Amendment Act 1992 extended the date when the requirement expired until 1 October 1993. This bill further extends that date until 1 October 1995.
The other changes made by the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act 1991 are not affected by the 1992 Amending Act or this bill. Those changes include the extension of the definition of "take or kill", the establishment of a scientific committee that recommends the listing of endangered fauna, the requirement for a fauna impact statement for a general licence or "take or kill" endangered fauna, the power to issue stop work orders to prevent development that is likely to significantly affect the environment of endangered or other protected fauna.
The Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act 1991 imposed restrictions on the issuing of general licensed by the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife after the publication of the new schedule of endangered fauna. The Act commenced on 17 December 1991 but the new schedule was not published until 28 February 1992. A number of general licences were issued after the commencement of the Act to the Forestry Commission and others to take or kill endangered fauna in connection with existing forestry and other operations.
The Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Amendment Act 1992 extended the duration of those licences and certain other licences to which that Act applies until 1 October 1993. This bill further extends their duration until 1 October 1995.
The bill makes it clear that the licences remain subject to the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 relating to the cancellation or variation of a licence. I place that on record to assure any person who has concerns about this.
I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [8.19]: The Opposition supports the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Amendment Bill. This is the third time that I have risen in this House to say that the Opposition supports the extension of the legislation that we introduced a couple of years ago. At the time the Government and a lot of other people were telling us that the sky was about to fall in. The sky did not fall in last year when the Government found it necessary to extend our legislation. The sky did not fall in yesterday when in the other place the Government found that, because of its inability to deal with the important issue of protecting endangered fauna, it again had to extend our legislation. It is not a matter of surprise that the Minister for Planning and Minister for Housing has not managed to find his way here tonight to move the second reading of the bill.
This is a very important bill. As the Minister for Planning and Minister for Housing is not here to explain the importance of the bill, I will say a little about it. Yesterday in the other place two important things were done with respect to the protection of endangered and threatened species. The bill which the Government prepared earlier this year has received considerable criticism. Indeed, the Opposition had prepared a total of, I think, 33 amendments to meet widespread criticism from people in the community, ranging from the environmental movement, which regarded that bill as fatally flawed, to organisations such as the Forest Products Association. The Labor Party had prepared 33 amendments and then suggested - knowing that the Government really was not capable of dealing with this entire process of fixing up its flawed legislation - that the bill be referred to a legislation committee. That has been done in the other place.
A legislation committee consisting of three Government members, two Opposition members and the honourable member for Manly will now examine this legislation in detail. I hope it will arrive at a consensus position which will eventually result in a proper package of legislation to protect our endangered species. That committee is to report by
1st March, 1994. However, a second bill was also necessary because the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act 1991, which was originally to expire in December 1992 - as I said, last year the Government was forced to extend the bill originally introduced by the Australian Labor Party - is now to expire on 30th September. It was necessary for the Government to find some way to cope with this problem.
That legislation is now being extended, under the provisions of the bill, from 1st October, 1993, to 1st October, 1995. The two-year extension will enable the long promised comprehensive package of legislation for the protection of endangered fauna to be formulated. It is with great pleasure that I indicate the Opposition's support for the bill, which is necessary because the whole problem of protecting endangered species has not yet been solved by the Government. As long as that is the situation the interim protection legislation must continue. The environmental movement in particular has expressed concern about the proposed extension in that what exists under the legislation at the moment in effect are three-month licences which give access to resources, particularly timber resources, and if the effective three-month licences are extended for the next two years the principles of the bill might in some way be subjugated. We argue that that is not the case, although it may be the case, but we are hopeful that the provision in the bill that allows the director-general to continue licensing, issuing stop work orders and making other orders as he sees fit will ensure that no licences are issued which fail to satisfactorily protect endangered species.
The legislation also requires the Minister to table quarterly reports to the Parliament on the operations of the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act. From those quarterly reports it will be possible for us to see what is happening under the legislation. I am sure all honourable members remember that when the legislation was initially presented it was forecast that it would lead to a bureaucratic impossibility, that thousands of licences would be necessary, that fauna impact statements would have to be carried out all over the place, and that the entire process would cause a jam in the National Parks and Wildlife Service and other government organisations.
Many predictions were made that the legislation would be unworkable because of the demand it would place on the National Parks and Wildlife Service. In fact, over the period in which the legislation has been in operation the service has granted 62 temporary licences to take or kill endangered fauna. Most of those temporary licences were extended under the provision of last year's amendment to 1st October this year, and 266 variations to those licences and authorities have been processed. The Forestry Commission, I guess hoping to avoid a jam, has requested variations for approximately 350 additional compartments. Clearly, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has been capable of handling the issues associated with external monitoring of the Forestry Commission. When the legislation was introduced there was a great outcry accusing the Opposition of threatening jobs and alleging that all sorts of jobs in the timber industry would be lost. Of course, that has not happened and never looked like happening. It was also suggested that the Forestry Commission would be under threat and in great difficulty.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Have you any idea of the value of the timber industry?
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: I have a very clear idea of the value of the timber industry. I would point out for perhaps the third time that this legislation has consistently been drafted and organised by Australian Labor Party members - as were the 33 amendments I mentioned - to achieve a reasonable balance between the protection of endangered species, the protection of the environment, and the need to maintain not only jobs in the timber industry but the timber industry itself. Over and over again we have pointed out that it is possible to provide enough logs to keep timber mills occupied by logging areas which are not environmentally sensitive.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: They have access to only 6 per cent of the forest areas.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: The Forestry Commission's main problems have been bad management, bad planning, bad environmental practices and bad work practices in general. Some members of the National Party have been known to become rabid on this issue. One of them is seeking to interject here tonight. Despite all the fears of the National Party, the Forestry Commission - and I would hope all of us - has to accept that the time has long gone by when any agency of government in this State can expect to act, in this case, as the body milling timber and also as the regulator. The days have long gone by when the same body can act as both the proponent of development or forestry activities and also the regulator.
The strength of the bill is that it leaves the Forestry Commission free to carry out its proper activities - better, I hope, than it has done in the past. The bill will ensure that the Forestry Commission is subject to external regulation and licensing, as is almost every other body in this State. If members of the National Party cannot accept the necessity for that provision, I despair of their ever understanding environmental issues or matters of government. The Forestry Commission has to understand the concepts of external licensing and scrutiny. Both concepts are here to stay, and both are extremely important if public confidence in the process is to remain in place. I again urge members to support the bill. We still have a long way to go in New South Wales before we can complete the process of protecting endangered species. Over the past two years the Opposition has shown the way and has pulled the Government's chestnuts out of the fire. We hope that the
Government's deeply flawed legislation will be improved by a process of amendment over the next six months by the legislation committee of the other place, so that some time next year we will be able to celebrate the protection of endangered fauna and other species in New South Wales.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [8.33]: This legislation has been necessitated by the failure to pass the Endangered and Threatened Species (Conservation) Bill, which has been referred to a legislation committee. It is hoped that a large number of amendments will be made to that bill. Dr Peter Macdonald's species conservation bill is also in the offing. This legislation amends the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Act to extend its operation to 1st October, 1995. I do not intend to repeat what has been said by other members in debate. However, Australia has the worst mammal protection rates in the world, with 20 species, or 8 per cent of total Australian mammal fauna, lost since the arrival of Europeans just over 200 years ago.
In 1973 Dr Harry Frith, one-time chief of the Division of Wildlife Research of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, published the most authoritative work on the status of wildlife in Australia. Dr Frith listed 37 marsupial species, or 26 per cent of our entire marsupial fauna, as either extinct or threatened. Only 20 years later, in 1993, the "Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes", produced by the Commonwealth Government, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the World Wide Fund for Nature, listed 70 species, or 49 per cent of all of our marsupials, as either extinct or threatened. Therefore, nearly half of Australia's marsupial fauna are either extinct or threatened. This is the worst record of any country in the world.
Of all the Australian States, New South Wales has the worst extinction record. We have the worst animal and mammal extinction record in Australia. We have lost 40 native animal species, 27 of them mammals. We are also second only to Western Australia in plant extinctions, with 15 gone so far, yet some of the rednecks in this place want to increase this State's extinction rate. Another 50 mammal species are considered endangered, vulnerable or rare in New South Wales. In a country that has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world, New South Wales appears to have one of the worst regional extinction rates for mammals, compared to any other nationally internal region in the world. We have nothing to be proud of in our treatment of our wildlife.
Wildlife in this State is still being lost mainly through clearance of habitat and destruction of forests. I have raised in this House compartment 1402, which this very day is being logged. Under the national forest policy signed by the Premier, that compartment should never have been logged. That logging is going ahead despite pressure from Canberra and from most conservation groups in this State. The New South Wales Government, however, does not care at all that such a small area, one of the most valuable habitats in the whole State, will be destroyed. That is absolutely shameful. Rednecks continue to cry foul about any need to preserve what they regard as useless species. Our animals and birds have no value to the rednecks, who can see value only in timber resources which they want to woodchip and send to Japan for next to no return. That is outrageous. The Australian Democrats support the proposed legislation. We hope that over the next two and a half years prior to the next State election the Government - and I know some Ministers have a fond regard for wildlife - will introduce legislation that is much better than existing legislation to adequately protect our endangered species.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK (Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Minister for Tourism, and Minister Assisting the Premier) [8.35], in reply: I thank honourable members for their effusive support for the bill and recognition of its importance, given that the present legislation expires shortly. I thank them for their understanding and support. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
The Government is committed to ensuring that development activities can continue throughout the State and that appropriate protection is given to endangered fauna while the Parliament has the opportunity to fully consider the legislative options.