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Estimates Reply – Minister Jaensch

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Tags: Threatened Species, Environment, Parks

Dr WOODRUFF - I do not get a lot of joy from re-reading this transcript. It was a painful questioning process of Mr Jaensch in his capacity as minister for the Environment. It started badly and it got worse. There was only an hour available to scrutinise the minister for all of his responsibilities for protecting critically endangered species and habitat; our beautiful waterways and marine environments; the land; the sea, and the management of all of them for the future inhabitants of this island. It was a pathetically small amount of time. The fact I was only given two issues to raise during that period speaks volumes about the intention of the Government - with, I might mention, the support of the Labor Party - to keep the scrutiny for this minister in this portfolio as short as possible.

Ms Standen - You would have done better if you had shorter questions.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Ms Standen, for making that illuminating comment. We do what we can to get the issues raised for the people who raise them with us. We are the only people in this space who will raise matters to do with the environment. The Labor Party's record on that stands for itself.

Ms Standen - Spare us, you just like to pretend you are the only ones who care.

Ms O'Connor - That is why we have Hansard.

Dr WOODRUFF - Let's just talk about Westbury, while we are at it. I believe it was on the dot point where the Labor Party was completely abandoning the Westbury community when the Liberal Government changed their preferred option for another prison from being in the middle of town to being in a Tasmanian reserve estate - the Westbury Reserve. As soon as it moved into a bushland area, the Labor Party has not been seen in the community since.

I am here to talk about the minister for the Environment. The take-home message for anyone who is watching, is that the minister for the Environment will, at every opportunity, wash his hands, pass the buck, outsource responsibilities to make sure he does not get called to make a decision, obfuscate, and hide information, to make it as impossible as he can for the community to find out what the processes are for protecting the environment. He will make sure at every opportunity that the finger is pointing to someone else, somewhere else so there no responsibility is sheeted home to him for anything that happens in this state to do with the environment.

That is pretty much a summation of how this minister treats the grave responsibilities he has for protecting threatened and critically endangered species. If it is a matter to do with bans on duck shooting he will just point to the minister for Primary Industry -

Mr Jaensch - That is because it is not my portfolio.

Dr WOODRUFF - That's right, it's not his responsibility. If it has to do with a development that will obliterate a threatened orchid at the top of Rosny Hill - a much loved nature recreation area - he will point the finger at the Clarence City Council and say, I cannot make a decision on that because it is council; it is planning; it is new development; it is in court; we will wait until later. He will never make a decision about whether the proposed development on that land is, or is not, going to obliterate the orchid. Even the right to information advice we received from his own departmental staff makes it clear that they have deep scepticism that the developer would have any capacity to relocate orchids. Orchids do not do that; they do not like to be transplanted.

His own staff provide that information. The minister refuses to hear it or maybe it never gets up the chain of command, so he can have plausible deniability when he is asked.

It started off with the minister effectively finding no problems with the statement of expectations that the EPA Board has, that governs their response to managing the environment. The minister signalled that despite the fact he has not personally issued a statement of expectation, the one issued under then Environment minister, Ms Archer still stands, and it still prioritises industry productivity and the provision of employment opportunities over environmental protection.

The minister made it clear that he is not inclined to have any change to that situation when he issues a new statement, despite the fact that the world has changed. The minister pointed to statements of expectation nearly a decade old, from the Labor Party when they were in government - as if that was the gold standard of how these expectations should be written for the EPA. It is not. The world has changed. It has changed dramatically. We are in a global biodiversity crisis. Tasmania is a refuge. We have high functioning biodiversity, but it is rapidly under threat. It is disappearing every day, through native forest logging; development; agricultural activities; feral animals; and through a whole range of human activities that must be moderated if we are to ensure we keep the biodiversity that we have intact.

That is what this minister should be doing. The statement of expectation has to be rewritten to put environment at the top to make it truly sustainable, not the cynical misrepresentation that the minister puts into the words 'sustainable' he when uses it, a cynical attempt to talk about a triple bottom line when it is only ever possible under this Government's direction for the EPA to put industry productivity first ..

Every time that is what happens and it is the changes in the marine environment, it is the changes in terrestrial environment, and it is the hundreds and hundreds - I think it might be 660, maybe 700 - threatened species recovery plans that have not been prepared or that are out of date. These are just a few of the things that this minister would outsource or not even bother. He could not care less about the hundreds and hundreds of threatened species in Tasmania. Even the most iconic like the wedge-tailed eagle either have no threatened species recovery plan at all or are woefully out of date, 10 years old. How shameful.

This Government has been here since 2014; we are in the seventh year now so there is no way this has anything to do with previous governments, but this minister cannot bring himself to talk without a smirk on his face about such an important matter as a 10-year out-of-date recovery plan for the wedge-tailed eagle.

It was a depressing experience. I am tired of seeing the minister smirk and find it amusing that there are opaque processes in the department so it is impossible for people in the community to get access to information except through right to information, and talking about the swift parrot hollows that have been blocked up in the north-east. The minister does not sees it as his responsibility and Mr Crane and his department also agreed that is was not their department's responsibility to require that the Department of State Growth understand the impact on a critically endangered bird from blocking up tree hollows and chopping trees down and that it should be reported to the EPBC for assessment. They say it is not their job. Nothing in the environment is the job of this minister for Environment.