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Threatened Species in Tasmania

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 20 August 2020

Tags: Threatened Species, Swift Parrot

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the reason we brought on this matter of public importance debate is that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We have certainly been asking questions, raising issues in relation to the Government's COVID-19 response, but we are also able to come into this place and do our jobs as Green MPs and speak up for rare, threatened, and endangered species in Tasmania, as we should. If we don't raise these issues, as matters of public importance, no one will.

I wanted to go back to something the minister said earlier about the EPBC Act and remind him that the independent Samuel Review, of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act found, and this was only handed down two weeks ago, that 80 per cent of federal environmental approvals were non-compliant or contained errors.

This is the Australian Audit Office, saying the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has failed in its duty to implement sound regulation to protect Australia's unique wildlife. This is a process that is already failing, and yet you have the Morrison and the Gutwein governments talking about signing up to a one-stop shop approval process. Not an assessment process. An approval process. If we had that in place when the pulp mill was on the table, we would have a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, and we would have a canal estate in Ralphs Bay - because it was the critically endangered spotted handfish, protected under the EPBC Act, that finally, ultimately, helped us save that bay after years of hard slog.

So, having a one-stop approval should send a shudder of concern through every Tasmanian who wants to see our rare, threatened, and endangered species, not only protected but flourish.

We have here the Public Authority Management Agreement, which as Dr Woodruff said, our policy adviser spent most of yesterday trying to find, and interestingly, and the minister has not addressed this, this agreement is undated. Zero date. It is signed by the Acting Secretary of DPIPWE because the secretary, Mr Baker, is on sick leave. That means that this document has been pulled together in somewhere less than a month. What this document confirms is that Sustainable Timber Tasmania is not even 'sustainable' in name only any more, because this makes it clear that Sustainable Timber Tasmania, or STT, means Forestry Tasmania being a corporation established pursuant to section 6 of the Forestry Act of 1920.

Even on the PAMA front page we have 'Forestry Tasmania', so it is an agreement between DPIPWE and Forestry Tasmania - a corporation established pursuant to section 6 of the Forestry Act. We will never again call that dodgy entity Sustainable Timber Tasmania. It is Forestry Tasmania and that is what it will be known as herein.

There is no firm commencement date for this PAMA. It provides exemptions for the parties, and alarmingly, as Dr Woodruff pointed out but not enough people were listening at the time, this agreement makes clear that if a swift parrot is sighted within an operational area, all forest harvesting will cease within 50 metres of that area until further notice is obtained from the department as to whether operations can proceed in accordance with this agreement. If no decision has been made by the department by the end of the breeding season, operations may proceed before the next breeding season. There is your 'get out of not logging a forest free card'.

This Public Authority Management Agreement is not going to save the swift parrot and that was acknowledged in print by the auditors SCS Global in their rejection of Forestry Tasmania's FSC certification.

Mr Deputy Speaker, what we know is there was a PAMA that was talked about, and the auditors heard about the PAMA -

Mr Jaensch - When did they audit?

Ms O'CONNOR - The audit was handed to Government six months ago, and Forestry -

Mr Jaensch - So how could that auditor have taken -

Ms O'CONNOR - Forestry Tasmania sat on it for six months, they knew about a PAMA -

Mr Jaensch - How could the auditor be saying that the PAMA has no value like you assert?

Ms O'CONNOR - The PAMA has no value in protecting the species, which is what the auditors assert. The auditors say that it is not enough to protect the species.

Mr Jaensch - The audit was was before the PAMA.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, the audit was not before the PAMA. Minister, you need to get across your portfolio because the auditors knew that the PAMA was coming. They referred to it specifically in their audit report and they say it is not enough to protect the species. For what it is worth, this PAMA tells us that there are 40 000 hectares at a minimum of potential nesting habitat, core breeding range and potential nesting habit. And yet, not 10 000 hectares but 9300 hectares has been identified as an area in which there may or may not be logging because you have the escape clause in the Public Authority Management Agreement.

It is important that the House remembers we are not just talking about the swift parrot here, a species that is reduced to 1000 breeding pairs. We are talking about iconic, endemic species like the grey goshawk, the giant wedge-tailed eagle, the Tasmanian devil, the giant freshwater crayfish. Our forests are absolute miraculous treasure troves of life, and under this government, and in fact successive majority governments in Tasmania, you have seen our beautiful high-conservation value carbon rich habitat rich forests being trashed.