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Threatened Species

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 7 September 2023

Tags: Threatened Species, Fish Farms, Macquarie Harbour

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, it is Threatened Species Day and the minister for the Environment has just given an eloquent speech on behalf of industry. He spent his whole seven minutes talking about the difficult balance. It is not a difficult balance if you are doing a job. This is the minister who is monitoring species to extinction. That is what he does. That is all he does. He sits there and dithers about the balance and he forgets that he has a job to do.

He is the minister for undermining the environment, the minister for leading species towards the brink of extinction and pushing them off over the edge.

Mr Jaensch - You tell your story. You make your contribution.


Dr WOODRUFF - Well, you talk about the two threatened species recovery plans that you just dumped into the public domain in the last day - the maugean skate and the swift parrot, which Mr Bayley has already talked about, both of them federal national recovery plans for critically endangered species. You could have chosen to speak about them, but you did not.

You talked about how hard it was and the balance that needs to be struck. What that means to Tasmanians who care is that you are a 'do nothing' minister - but even worse, I think, you are actively slowing down the pace of action. What you should have told us is what this conservation plan for the maugean skate says.

Let us put on the record that today in Tasmania, on Threatened Species Day, there are 680 threatened species listed - 493 plants, 190 animals, 68 extra ones that are vulnerable, and 268 that are rare.

I only have time to talk about a handful, but there are so many that do not even have a recovery plan under this minister. No appetite. The only reason we have a maugean skate and swift parrot recovery plan is the relentless work of activists and conservationists and people who care about our beautiful natural wildlife and glorious wilderness, who are relentlessly putting it to the Government's attention. If it was not for them, there would be no national recovery plans.

Thank you to all those people. Thank you, Collette Harmsen, who is in jail for standing up at the outrageous destruction in the Florentine and the Styx of enormous, giant trees - the biggest flowering trees on this planet. Every day they are being rolled out of there, and people are standing up for them, because they are the same trees that swift parrots breed and feed in. The same ones the critically endangered masked owl lives in. The same ones that the eastern quoll, the Tasmanian devil and all of our other critically endangered, endangered, threatened, vulnerable and rare species live in.

It is under this Government, and its failure to act, that we have a situation where increasingly wild species are desperately on the edge of extinction.

What the maugean skate recovery plan says - which the minister did not refer to, because if he had looked at it, he would have said the risk matrix on page 28 identifies the almost certain likelihood of catastrophic effects from salmonoid aquaculture operations in Macquarie Harbour.

On page 29, under the Conservation and Recovery Actions, the primary conservation objective is to prevent the extinction of the maugean skate in the wild by rapidly addressing all significantly threatening processes. Key measures of success include, by 2024 next year, that the dissolved oxygen concentration within Macquarie Harbour waters is substantially improved and sustained to at least pre-2009 levels.

How will that happen? The number-one urgent priority before this summer is to eliminate or significantly reduce the impacts of salmon aquaculture on dissolved oxygen concentrations. The fastest and simplest way to achieve this is by significantly reducing the biomass and the feeding rates. That is your job, minister. You go off and do it. That is your job.

Tanya Plibersek yesterday urged the salmon industry and the Tasmanian Government to take the action needed to clean up Macquarie Harbour so the maugean skate can survive. Well, I will just cut out the salmon industry because they are not going to do it. So, it is your job, minister. It is your job on behalf of all Australians who care about our threatened, critically endangered wildlife. That is the law. You have to uphold it.

We have a swift parrot recovery plan that makes it very clear there has to be an assessment of the forests that are being destroyed, because they are habitat for critically endangered species. And a proper assessment would say those trees cannot be chopped down, because we need all the trees we can for the swift parrot to live in.

This is a story, under the Liberals, of environment minister after environment minister. It started off with Matthew Groom and it has kept going. Mr Jaensch has taken it to its zenith.

It is a story of a government that is supporting its big donors. It is supporting its party's ideology. It is supporting the vested interests it spends time with. Like Jeremy Rockliff having a special Liberal donor dinner where he wines and dines the Batista brothers and has a chat over dinner about everything he can do for Tasmania, for them in Tasmania. That is what happens under the Liberals. Spend $10 000, get a sweet dinner, have a chat with the Premier and it is all sorted. It is such cheap business. No wonder they love coming here. No wonder there is nothing that will change what salmon farming is doing in Macquarie Harbour unless there is pressure, unless there is a direction to make that happen.

The key drivers of course are the non-independent EPA, who still have to operate under ministerial direction. They do not have an opportunity to do the work they need to do, because the smug minister over there in the corner is directing them to operate and look at business interests first.