Thursday, 18 February 2021
Matters of Public Importance
During the Morrison government's continued failure to maintain and improve our nation's environmental protection laws, there are organisations that are still trying to do their best to protect our environment all while being undermined and/or ignored and underresourced by this government.
In my electorate, I would like to recognise the Tasmanian Land Conservancy for its continued drive and dedication to nature conservation. The TLC is a not-for-profit apolitical and community-minded organisation whose ethos surrounds the important and growing challenge of preserving our environment for future generations to enjoy and appreciate and, importantly, it does it hand in hand with private landowners.
Just outside Buckland on Tasmania's east coast, the Prosser and Back Rivers cut their way through a valley of grassy woodland. This 1,534-hectare reserve will protect threatened vegetation communities and 11 threatened plant and animal species as well as old-growth vegetation communities and freshwater ecosystems. It's all made possible thanks to a very generous bequest by the late Mr McGregor. It's a wonderful piece of Tasmanian territory. The pre-European values of this land are amazing. It's all done through private bequest, so the government's got no part in it.
Also with the TLC, at Beaufront in Ross in my electorate, Julian von Bibra for the last seven years has been working very hard with the conservancy to restore 190 hectares. He says, 'Conservation now has a place on the farm balance sheet.' There are people out there doing the right thing for conservation and the environment, because this government is not doing enough for them.
Another project in my electorate is the Derwent Catchment Project, which does amazing work in the Derwent Valley and the Central Highlands. They look after around one-fifth of the total area of Tasmania. The Derwent catchment's a vast region with extraordinarily diverse landscapes. Members may recall that the Derwent and Central Highlands area was devastated by bushfire a few years ago, and areas of Tasmania that have never known fire for literally tens of thousands of years were burnt. This of course is the contributing nature of climate change, a hotter climate with fires getting wilder and going to areas where they've not been seen in tens of thousands of years. A big shout-out to the Derwent Catchment Project for the incredible work they do.
It would be remiss of me not to talk about the failures of this government when it comes to the environment without briefly touching on the Northern Midlands prison project in my electorate. This is largely a state government jurisdiction, but it also touches on federal jurisdiction. The plot of land that the Tasmanian Liberal government has chosen for this northern prison site is just outside the town of Westbury and the land that it's chosen was reserved under federal environmental law, using federal funding for environmental protection. Somehow the minister has allowed the state Liberal government pretty much carte blanche to do what it likes with this land.
I don't for the life of me see how a prison fits the values of environmental protection and wildlife protection, but we'll see what happens. We've put a number of questions on notice to the minister on this very point. How on earth is she allowing the state government to do what it's doing, given the supposedly important nature of this land? It was deemed important enough to reserve; now it's being turned into a prison. We can have no confidence that this is the right site, because the decision-making process that the state government used to determine this site was completely flawed. So we've got no confidence that even the choice of this site was the right decision. I'm quite sure it's probably the wrong decision.
Briefly, Labor are calling on the Morrison government to introduce strong national environmental standards—not too much to ask. We're asking the government to establish a genuinely independent cop on the beat for Australia's environment—not too much to ask—and fix the explosion in the unnecessary 510 per cent job and investment delays caused by the government's massive funding cuts over its term in office. This government is no friend to the environment and it should stop pretending it is.