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Threatened Species

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Thursday, 7 September 2023

Tags: Swift Parrot, Forests, Threatened Species

Mr BAYLEY (Clark) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: threatened species.

I rise today to talk on our Matter of Public Importance which is threatened species. I trust we all agree in this House of the significance of threatened species.

I will start by reading a letter into Hansard by Dr Colette Harmsen - many of you have received this letter, dated today, 7 September 2023:

Today is National Threatened Species Day.

My name is Dr Colette Harmsen. I am a veterinarian, wildlife defender and peaceful forest protester and I am in goal. I am writing to you from the Mary Hutchinson Women's Prison in Risdon Vale, lutruwita, Tasmania, where I have been sentenced to three months of goal time for peaceful environment protest in Tasmania's native forests.

I feel that the Government has continued to deeply disrespect myself and my scientific colleagues for failing to take our concerns about threatened species seriously.

The Government has an appalling track record of ignoring good science and scientific advice and Australia has the worst rate of mammal extinctions anywhere on the planet.

You and your Government are thumbing your nose at the climate crisis and your utter contempt for the state of the environment will not serve you into the future.

People are not blind and while the climate crisis exponentially worsens, a government who depends on votes from an apathetic and ignorant crowd will be on the wrong side of history. A goal sentence will not deter us and a legal system who panders to a morally corrupt government instead of securing the future of a health planet, will not stand the test of time.


Dr Colette Harmsen

Doing it for the forests

Mary Hutchinson Women's Prison

Risdon Vale


I could focus today on the Maugean skate, the wedge-tailed eagle, the spotted-tailed quoll or even the Tasmanian devil which is a species very dear to Colette's heart, but I want to talk about the swift parrot.

The swift parrot is the fastest parrot in the world, an endemic breeder here in Tasmania and 100 per cent reliant on Tasmania's forests for its foraging and breeding habitat. When it comes to the swift parrot and problems with it I could talk about illegal firewood. I could talk about sugar gliders' disease and I could even talk about the loss of over-wintering habitat in mainland states, because this is a migratory parrot. However, I want to talk about habitat loss at the hands of native forest logging, because that is very clearly the greatest threat to this species. I want to also acknowledge that literally these parrots have just arrived in Tasmania. In Taroona, where I live, they are currently feeding on the flowering blue gums that are in that neck of the woods. They are spectacular and an incredibly beautiful species.

I want to acknowledge there are recovery plans for this species. There has been a recovery plan in place since 2011 and there was another one released exactly today. The 2011 recovery plan had an objective in it to implement management strategies to protect and improve habitats and sites on all land tenures, but recovery plans are not worth the paper they are written on unless the Government actually acts. Since 2011, we have seen situations where the Government has repeatedly ignored the scientific advice of experts and approved forest practice plans for logging. This was detailed in Pulling a Swifty report in 2014.

In 2018, eminent scientists from the Australian National University, wrote a paper titled Policy, Failure and Conservation Paralysis for the Critically Endangered Swift Parrot. They noted it is the best-studied species that conservation management is not keeping pace with the advances in knowledge and science. That is five years ago and this kind of logging is still happening today. It is shameful it is still happening today.

In a coupe in the north east of Tasmania, SH69E, arrests of people such as good friend, Rob Blakers, a photographer who took spectacular images in that forest just last year because the parrots were literally breeding in that forest last year and it has been logged this year. It is a criminal act and it really does need to stop. That is acknowledged today in the recovery plan that has just been released, and let me read into Hansard the comments of this recovery plan and that is that: (tbc 5.29)

The loss of potential breeding habitat in Tasmania by clearance for conversion to agriculture, native forest logging and intensive native forest (5:29:56) cultural practices continues to reduce the amount available of Swift parrot nesting and foraging habitat.

The science is abundantly clear that if we are going to save these kinds of species, we need to take action to protect its habitat. Actions are identified in the recovery plan. Let me turn to the objectives that are contained in this recovery plan. It is 100 per cent clear that the strategy to achieve the objective of protecting this parrot is maintaining breeding and foraging habitat at the local, regional and landscape level. There is an action that the Government consider reservation of land for forest on publicly owned land.

I wanted to highlight today the problem here, which is that word 'consider'. What is the point having a recovery plan for a species such as the swift parrot, the fastest parrot in the world if all it compels this Government to do is to 'consider' actions to protect its habitat, to 'consider' whether they will do it? We know the simple fact that if this Government gets the opportunity to only have to 'consider' protecting the habitat of this species, we know the decisions that they will inevitably make. It will be to log the habitat at the expense of the species.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I finish by noting when it comes to the environment and threatened species that this Government has failed for over a decade to produce a state of the environment report. This is a statutory requirement, which needs to be provided every five years. They have admittedly missed the last two reporting periods. They have acknowledged that this needs to be rectified and committed the Tasmanian Planning Commission to finish one in June 2024.