Showing posts with label forests. Show all posts
Showing posts with label forests. Show all posts

Monday, 23 November 2020

How the scandal plagued Berejiklian Government bill to extinguish the protection of koalas and their shelter & food trees in NSW went down


At 3pm on Thursday 19 November 2020 the NSW Legislative Council considered the second reading of Local Land Sevices Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020.

Thirty-seven members of the Legislative Council attended the Chamber for the passage of this bill, although not all participated in the debate.

The debate on the bill itself went for 5 hours and 24 minutes before the bells rang for a vote.

Here are excerpts drawn from the Hansard record of this debate:

The Hon. SARAH MITCHELL (Liberal Party): 

With the endorsement of the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, I make this statement now in this second reading speech: There will be no ministerial direction requiring any local council to zone core koala habitat as an environmental zone—period. The Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 will help to ensure that primary production is regulated consistently and fairly right across New South Wales, making it easier for the agriculture and forestry sectors to invest in the future. Government action now is essential to reduce regulatory burden and simplify the interaction between areas requiring additional environmental protection on rural land.

A slow undermining of farmers' rights and the Local Land Services Act, which is such a critical reform for farmers and this Government, will not be allowed to happen on our watch. The last time I introduced a bill into this House I stood in defence of a farmer's right to farm and their right to go about their business without being subject to on-farm invasions. I was proud to introduce the toughest raft of penalties anywhere in the country for this highly dangerous and disgusting trespass activity to which farmers were being subjected. I said then that I would be back with further reforms. This bill is one piece of the puzzle. It is a significant next step forward for farmers today by unscrambling some of the issues about how we regulate on-farm activities.

Ms CATE FAEHRMANN (The Greens Party): 

Up and down the mid North Coast and the North Coast hundreds of thousands of hectares of private native forestry plans have been approved within which there is a lot of core koala habitat. The timber industry has been consulted on the bill and loves it because, lo and behold, if core koala habitat is not already mapped it ends up for grabs…..

In his second reading speech the agriculture Minister said that the bill amending the Local Land Services Act has come about after years of consultation with farmers. Basically he said that the bill will make farmers very happy and that the key people with whom he consulted were the NSW Farmers Association and the timber industry. I will talk briefly about what the new koala SEPP was going to do. After speaking with the environment Minister, the planning Minister and various people in this place about what on earth this bill was about, we were assured that it is okay because it tightens the definition of "koala habitat". That it is what we had been after for some time because it puts in 123 feed trees and that it is a great step because more koala habitat will be protected and expanded. But a new definition of "core koala habitat" is useless if it cannot be applied to where it is needed most. The bill expressly prohibits that. Every time we heard something else about the bill, you could almost hear the committee members who sat on the koala inquiry asking, "What? They have done what?"

After the year we have had, after the bushfires, after the inquiry finding that koalas will become extinct in New South Wales before 2050 without urgent Government intervention to prevent ongoing loss and fragmentation of koala habitat, the National Party has the gall to try to get away with this absolutely disgraceful bill. Perhaps that is fair enough, given The National Party's strong track record of being anti-environment. I would welcome any National Party member coming forward to explain how this bill is not an anti-environment bill. In fact, we heard a lot of that in the lower House and not a single member of the Liberals spoke in favour of this incredible compromise that the National Party came up with. To hear the agriculture Minister say in his second reading speech that he worked collaboratively with the Premier's office and with the planning Minister's office makes one wonder what the hell was going on with this legislation. After all of the fanfare and all of the promises, they booted out the environment Minister Matt Kean for having the gall to talk about doubling koala numbers. For goodness sake! They boot him out and say, "We will take over, there's nothing to see here. Go away, let's do this bill…..

During debate in this place on the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party bill—which tried to do something similar but went a little further—on the day that the Minister's bill was second read in the other place, the Hon. Ben Franklin quoted the Hon. Mark Banasiak. He basically said that Sydney-based greenies should keep their noses out of any affairs in the bush. Pretty much everybody cares about koalas. Maybe a few people in The Nationals call them and think of them as "tree rats", but pretty much everybody I speak to right across New South Wales cares. In fact, people call my office and every office from across the country and, indeed, the world. More than 10,000 emails were sent on a single day, crashing the server. I do not think I have seen more emails on an issue. It is koalas, for goodness sake; we are talking about koalas. It is not a city-based greenie issue; this is an Australian issue. This is our national icon and the most loved animal not just in Australia but also the world. It wins so many contests and surveys as the most loved animal…..

Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE (Christian Democrats Party): 

Like other members of this House I have a great love and attraction for our koalas. I will do all that I can to ensure—as we are doing in this legislation—that we protect particularly those major areas of habitat in Ballina, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Lismore and Port Stephens.

The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK (Liberal Party)

A hundred years ago the New South Wales Government supported a thriving primary industry in the name of jobs, property rights, economic growth and revenues to the public purse. The industry operated across all States and involved the slaughter of well over 8 million koalas and the export of their furs, mainly to the United Kingdom. At least 4 million koala pelts were sent to the USA, and trade only ceased when the American Secretary of Commerce signed an order prohibiting further imports. How embarrassing. The koalas were hunted to functional extinction in South Australia. Well-intentioned conservationists alarmed by the losses relocated several koalas to Kangaroo Island, which had never before had koalas. This created a new environmental disaster on the fragile environment of that island that is still being mitigated today. In Victoria it is estimated that hunting continued until barely 1,000 koalas were left, and the Australia Koala Foundation estimates that fewer than 500 were left alive in New South Wales.

After that the slaughter moved north to Queensland, where a month-long event known as "Black August" in 1927 saw more than 800,000 koalas killed. We have made so many mistakes. The koala fur traders that profited from their pelts are all dead and gone, but the impacts of what they did are with us today. One day all of us here in this Chamber will be dead and gone, but the impacts of what we decide today will last forever. I do not want this Government or this Parliament to be remembered for a massive policy error, added to the very long list of errors that we have already been making for more than a century—particularly when everyone from scientists to councils to passionate communities are telling us so clearly that this is not what they want.

It is safe to say that in my own North Coast region, fragile koala numbers have declined significantly. We know that the region lost an estimated 71 per cent of its already endangered koalas during the Black Summer fires. Our koalas are in so much trouble. The plight of koalas is really well understood by my community, and indeed by the whole world, which donated tens of millions of dollars in a stunning act of generosity to funds established specifically help koalas. My community is incredibly distressed by this legislation. In all of the communications sent to me on this issue, I have not had a single person ask me to vote for this bill—not one. I cannot find a constituency for this legislation. All I can find is enormous distress and mistrust. The Minister's second reading speech referring to a promise by the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces not to proclaim any more environmental lands was a huge shock to me personally. It was really hard for me to process as a lifelong Liberal…..

I admit that this bill brings to the surface many disappointments. Nine years ago I thought that there was a lot of hope and promise for the environment. But this has brought me to a tipping point because of the reframing of policy that began with catchment management authorities being removed from the Environment portfolio and handed to the primary industries Minister by former Premier Barry O'Farrell. Those disappointments have of course had to be endured for the sake of loyalty. But as members are aware, the shock of what happened to the portfolio and the incremental stripping away of protections from Environment and Planning and into a Primary Industry framework have been very difficult to swallow—particularly since the models that we have been dismantling were set up by the Liberal Party and The Nationals during the Greiner years. It is our own good work that we have been undoing…..

I have received assurances that the bill is not as bad as it looks and that it will be amended and improved, but the problem is that I have to deal with what is on the table before me, and the risk is too high to rely on those assurances. I have done that in the past and I have felt foolish for doing so. Mention has been made of the departure of the bill from the Cabinet decision, which I find shocking. I feel for my colleagues, including Ministers, who voted for the bill in the other place, believing incorrectly it had been approved by Cabinet. Truly, I have not encountered such poor integrity of processes, which all members have no choice but to trust and rely upon. My faith in those processes has been shattered. I have friends in Cabinet, and they are great Liberals with whom I have worked for decades. My position on the bill today inflicts enormous harm on those relationships. I cannot say how sad and sorry I am for that.

I apologise to the Premier, to my party and to our Coalition partners. I believe they are all good people. The damage that is inflicted by the bill is not what they wanted or intended, but the flawed processes means that that is what has been delivered. I believe in my heart that what I am doing today will assist the Government. The Premier, the planning Minister and the environment Minister could not have tried harder to ask me to support the bill. They should not be blamed for the fallout from today. I hope we can stop yelling at each other, work like adults for our communities and listen to each other and create consensus where there is chaos. I do not think that is a fairytale; I believe it is achievable if we leave ourselves out of the policy and go with the science and the facts.

I will make mention of Glen Turner, an inspector who lost his life in a shocking event. All members have a responsibility to honour him and to respect the sacrifice that he made. One person's humble career on the floor of Parliament is insignificant compared with what occurred in that incident. I acknowledge Glen and I thank him and his family. I will move an amendment to the bill in the earnest belief that a more transparent process will assist the bill, the Government and the community to come together in the great cause of saving our koalas. There is nothing to fear from an all-party inquiry, and there is much to be gained from inspiring confidence in the community. I thank the House for the opportunity to put my thoughts on record. I move:

That the question be amended by omitting "be now read a second time" and inserting instead "be referred to Portfolio Committee No. 7 - Planning and Environment for inquiry and report".

The Hon. JOHN GRAHAM (Labor Party)

We are so far from that with the bill. We are so far from that world, which is possible. The bill heads in the opposite direction. I am concerned that that is the case because of the culture of the Government: the developers are out in force, the tipsy developers wandering through the Premier's office, the developers housed in the pub at Taree are part of the fundraiser and the walking ATM back on the typewriter. That is the culture of the Government. Our concern, and the planning Minister's concern, is that that culture is driving the bill. Secondly, members have been critical about the maps and how some of the aerial surveillance is regulated. There are real concerns with how that is working. My concern there is that the system has not been resourced properly to settle those questions. Of course, the way to settle questions is with science, but the science to proof the maps is not there if the money is not there or to ground-truth what is going on. That is what is falling over: the decline in the funding for the regulatory agencies. The loss of skills as people lose hope and leave the regulatory agencies is killing our ability to be settle those issues through science. That is bad for everyone. That is bad for anyone who wants to see a result in the area. The best bit of the Hon. Catherine Cusack's speech was when she described to koala plans of management as a little bit complicated—not a truer word could have been spoken. It is complicated if we are going to regulate it properly.

Finally, I want to talk about the consequences. Members have been clear that the situation is very bad for koalas. Koalas will be extinct by 2050 if we do not get it right. We are heading in the wrong direction, but my concern about the past few years—but more than anything, about this bill—is that we are heading back to the forest wars. That is bad for everyone. That is not where members of the Government want to go because it is drawing the attention of environmental activists across the State and country who, frankly, were concerned about climate change and tackling that issue. They are being drawn back to New South Wales and the natural resource policies of the Government because of what is going on. The Government is drawing the attention of those activists and legislators. It is drawing the attention of this House, the Opposition and the crossbench. The issue is becoming more and more controversial. It is drawing the attention of the community, not only in Australia but also around the world, and that attention is not going to go away.

As the Hon. Catherine Cusack said, the bill is dragging us back to a time before the Greiner years. We had been moving towards consensus on some of those issues over Labor and Liberal governments, but the conflict is gearing up because of the approach. It is not just this bill; it is the other context I talked about. The bill is clearly drawing the attention. That is bad for farmers, forestry workers, environmentalists and regional communities. That is the problem if we gear up that conflict. Those issues rely on trust, faith and an understanding that we can work together. There is an optimistic path but the bill is so far from it. That is the Opposition's concern. I am glad that the Hon. Catherine Cusack mentioned Glen Turner and his family. He paid the price for one of those conflicts, which is what happens when we let loose those conflicts across the State. We should act very carefully and the Opposition will try to do that. The real fear is that the forest wars that the State has suffered over decades will really set us all back.

The Hon. MARK BANASIAK (Shooter, Fishers and Farmers Party): 

The Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 is a good example of the National Party's inability to negotiate outcomes for the bush with the Liberal Party. We sincerely appreciate the effort of Minister Adam Marshall, despite him being undermined by the pretend Nationals Deputy Premier John Barilaro in what can be described as his Winston Churchill moment, appeasing his Liberal masters.…..

As I have said already, Minister Adam Marshall has proven, once again, that he is one of the few sharp tools in the shed of the National Party in this Parliament. The Hon. Wes Fang is another. We achieved a lot together with Minister Marshall during debate on the Right to Farm Bill 2019. We are looking forward to achieve similar outcomes on this important Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill. However, that may not happen because the Hon. Catherine Cusack has gone a bit rogue. Either she will vote against the bill or she will refer it to a portfolio committee controlled by The Greens or an inquiry. Either way, The Nationals have been bent over the barrel unceremoniously. Who is the winner in all of this? It is definitely not the National Party.

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX (The National Party): 

Those people sit in their offices in their ivory towers pretending that they know what is best for the people who, for generations, have been looking after the lands which they have held in trust. They are very conscious of environmental issues, yet their stewardship and responsibility to their land and the environment is not recognised. Instead, we have another set of regulations and a number of maps that have been put through a local government process that, over time—particularly on the North Coast—have been taken over by people with a one-eyed view about what the environment means to them.

That is the problem. We cannot continue down this pathway of undermining the paradigm and framework that was carefully put in place in 2016. The codes under those Acts have embedded the protections so far as the environment is concerned, as well as biodiversity, land clearing and private native forestry. It is all there. Let us not pretend that this system is going to make it any better. It confuses everything right down the line. Let us go back to the simple processes that the Coalition Government carefully put in place at that time and enhance them where we need to through that Local Land Services framework. We should be doing that and not get caught up in State environment planning instruments. My view is that those types of SEPPs should be disallowed by this House of Parliament, because we are basically giving all those powers for those planning instruments to local governments, which are undermining the absolute basis of planning in this State, particularly in rural lands outside the cities.

The Hon. MARK PEARSON (Animal Justice Party): 

There are times in my political life when I step back in amazement at the terrible cruelty so casually inflicted upon the animals with whom we share this island continent. Reading the provisions of the Local Land Services (Amendment) Miscellaneous Bill 2020 and understanding its implications for koalas in particular is one of those occasions. Combined with the recent changes to the State Environment Planning Policy No. 44 (Koala Habitat Protection)—the koala SEPP— the effect of the bill has a diabolical impact on the survival of koalas in New South Wales. This is neither histrionics nor an overstatement. My concern is shared by every reputable conservation and environmental organisation in this country and the world. The ink is barely dry on the report of this House after its 12-month inquiry into New South Wales koala populations, which found that koala numbers were down to 15,000 to 20,000 and that koalas were at risk of extinction by 2050.

The bill will bring forward that estimated date of extinction. The bill and the revised SEPP make an absolute mockery of the Government's very recent promises to prevent the extinction of koalas on their watch. Senior Ministers such as the planning Minister, Rob Stokes, and the environment Minister, Matt Kean, have made very public statements about increasing protections for koalas. As recently as 21 September, Minister Stokes stated that, "The fact is you can't save the koala and remove koala habitat at the same time.” Minister Kean told The Sydney Morning Herald on 26 July:

I don't want to see the koala extinct by 2050, I want to see their population doubled by 2050 … Koalas are the most iconic example of our mismanagement of the environment and we've got to say 'enough is enough'.

That is not the Opposition, The Greens or the Animal Justice Party stating that. That is Minister Kean saying that he will ask the Chief Scientist to assemble an expert panel to develop a 30-year plan.

Yet, instead of a properly considered plan made by the environmental experts, there is this hastily put together bill, which completely abrogates any responsibility that the Government owes to the protection of koalas. The only thing missing to finish off koalas is to issue free chainsaws to every landholder and tell them to go for it.

The Hon. MARK LATHAM (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation: 

The green ideology on this is all about control….

You are not interested so much in the koalas as the trees. If the wombat or the echidna could climb trees, they would have a SEPP as well. They are the forgotten marsupials. Menzies had his forgotten people; I have the forgotten marsupials in this debate and I want them to be considered just as much. This is ableist discrimination. The Greens discriminate against them because they are disabled in the sense that they cannot climb a tree. It is ableism, as they term it in their mad, politically correct world of language. Let us get back to the basics of the parameters I have outlined in the speech. The history does not reflect well on Federal and State Government, but the Minister is doing the right thing. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party has magnificent amendments that One Nation supports. Hopefully that package will go through and we will forget the nonsense going off to The Greens committee.

Mr JUSTIN FIELD (Independent): 

If this legislation passes it will represent a total capitulation by the majority of the Liberal Party to the tantrums of Deputy Premier John Barilaro and The Nationals. Far from being a koala hero that stared down John Barilaro, if the bill becomes law the Premier will have buckled in the face of that tantrum by a political party that has absolutely no credibility when it comes to natural resource management in this State—never mind our shared natural environment. We have seen the papers. We have seen the tantrum, the showdown, the stare‑down, the peace deal and the breakdown of the peace deal. Now we are somehow expected to believe tantrummer-in-chief Deputy Premier John Barilaro has stepped in to save the day. We have had pushback today from the Hon. Catherine Cusack. About an hour ago the next phase started when Channel 7 reporter Alex Hart tweeted:

It's understood Nats have called an urgent partyroom meeting for 630pm, with their land rights (koala) bill about to be voted down in Upper House given Lib Cusack is opposed. When asked what this means, one Nat Minister replied "war".

That is the maturity that we are dealing with here. None of that makes sense based on the bill in front of us. Either the bill goes significantly further than the deal apparently struck and represented in the media by planning Minister Rob Stokes, acting Nationals leader Paul Toole and agriculture Minister Adam Marshall, or the spin around the deal did not reflect the actual agreement or the Cabinet decision. If a new peace deal has been negotiated by the Deputy Premier and the subject of yesterday'sThe Sydney Morning Herald story, then where are the amendments from the Government to implement it?

Where we are with this piece of legislation has become farcical. The reality is that the legislation will strip away significant protections for koalas and koala habitat. I will address something that has not been covered much today and that is the impact the bill will have on areas like wetlands and other critically important habitat on private land. It will do what The Nationals have always said they want to do; I am not surprised by this move. They do not want anyone other than their Minister and his legislation overseeing what happens on private land because they come at the debate from the perspective that rural landholders should have the right to manage their land as they see fit. I can understand how someone would arrive at that conclusion, but the consequences of that position are now apparent to us.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE (The Greens Party): 

Why is it happening? Because the Coalition is in some kind of meltdown and its internal ructions mean that it is introducing this legislation not because it thinks it is good policy, or fairly balances the environment and forestry and agricultural practices, but because there is a small group of National Party MPs—and some of their supporters in the Liberal Party—who are committed to sacrificing environmental and social values for short-term political gains, regardless of the damage it does to the environment, and even regardless of the damage it does to their own party and the Coalition.

The idea that development consent conditions differ between council areas seems to be one of the primary justifications for removing them when it comes to private native forestry practices. Because council A might impose a set of conditions on private native forestry operations and council B might impose a different set of conditions, the response in the bill is to abolish them entirely. The argument presented is that that is inefficient and creates red tape or green tape. Why does that happen in practice? Councils create land planning rules and put conditions on private native forestry operations based on the environmental and social issues that they are addressing in their local areas. It is a fact that councils can be responsive to the local area on that granular level, which makes it appropriate for different conditions to apply in different parts of the State.

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE (Labor Party): 

When the legislation we are now debating surfaced it was quite clear to a number of observers, including the Opposition, that The Nationals had essentially won their tussle with the Liberals, who had essentially capitulated in terms of protecting koala populations and what was in this bill. I will not canvass the details. Different members of this House—including my deputy, the Hon. Penny Sharpe—have done so eloquently. I will not repeat those arguments, but it is clear that the legislation is a complete sellout. We have also seen it transpire that, as people have examined the legislation more carefully, at least a big part of the Government or a large proportion of the Liberal Party has identified or believes the legislation that we are debating is not the legislation approved by the Coalition Cabinet. It contains elements that go well beyond what was understood to be agreed.

This is the fundamental basis upon which the Hon. Catherine Cusack rests her position and her proposed course of action. If that is in fact what has happened, there has been a breakdown in decision-making at the most senior levels in the Government. One wonders where the version or quality control is. Small wonder do we learn late this afternoon—probably a few minutes ago—that apparently the National Party is having a partyroom meeting to discuss this very problem. One wonders whether the koala crisis will engulf the Government once more. Is the National Party about to announce pulling out of the Government again? Time will tell. But it is quite clear that this legislation is fatally flawed, should be dispatched or sent to an inquiry. We will be supporting one or other of those courses of action.

The House divided a little after 8:38 pm and voted by 19 votes to 18 to amend the question being put to the House from the bill “be now be read a second time” to "be referred to Portfolio Committee No. 7 - Planning and Environment for inquiry and report".

This in effect means that the bill cannot come back before the Legislative Council until sometime in 2021.

It also means that there is a possibility that the Berejiklian Government will abandon this particular bill and begin writing its amendments to existing legislation all over again.

Later on the night of 19 November NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy-Premier John Barilaro issued a joint media release which stated:

Today the Legislative Council resolved to send the Local Land Services (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 to Parliamentary Committee 7 – Planning and Environment.

Our farmers deserve certainty and they do not deserve to be held to ransom by a Greens-controlled inquiry.

The Premier and the Deputy Premier have agreed the NSW Government will revert to operations under the former SEPP 44 by the end of the month and in the new year we will develop a policy to protect koalas and the interests of farmers.

Shortly thereafter the Premier issued this in another media release:

Media statement from Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Following her decision today to move a non-government amendment to a government bill, I have made the decision to immediately remove Ms Catherine Cusack as a Parliamentary Secretary.

On the morning of Friday 20 November 2020 concerned people around Australia responded on social media with the hashtag

I Stand With Catherine Cusack.


Those 18 MLCs who were not at all interested is supporting anything but their own political interests and who refused to support Ms. Cusack’s amendment were:

Lou Amato (Liberal)

Ben Franklin (Nationals)

Matthew Mason-Cox (Nationals)

Mark Banasiak (Shooter, Fishers and Farmers)

Trevor Khan (Nationals)

Sarah Mitchell (Nationals)

Robert Borsak (Shooter, Fishers and Farmers)

Mark Latham (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation)

Fred Nile (Christian Democrats)

Wes Fang (Nationals)

Natasha Maclaren-Jones (Liberal)

Rod Roberts (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation)

Scott Farlow (Liberal)

Shayne Mallard (Liberal)

Bronnie Taylor (Nationals)

Sam Farraway (Nationals)

Taylor Martin (Liberal)

Damien Tudehope (Liberal)

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Barilaro, the stealthy empire builder in 2020

When Liberal MP for Willoughby Gladys Berejiklian was sworn in as Premier of New South Wales on 23 January 2017, Nationals MP for Monaro John Barilaro (left) had already been Deputy-Premier under Bruce Baird for 38 days.

On 30 January 2017 Berejiklian made Barilaro Minister for Regional New South Wales. Twenty-six months later Berejiklian expanded this ministerial portfolio into the Minister for Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade.

On the same day Barilaro’s regional portfolio was expanded, Berejiklianestablished the new Department of Regional NSW to better coordinate support for communities, businesses and farmers in the bush.

The new department headquartered in Queanbeyan acts as a central agency that brings together functions from the Department of Planning Industry and Environment cluster and, is being led by Secretary Gary Barnes, formerly the Coordinator General, Regional NSW, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

The departmental workforce is expected to eventually reach around 5,000 employees, according to its Linkedin entry.

John Barilaro said the department will bring together Primary Industries, Local Land Services, Resources and Geoscience and regional coordination across government… is imperative we have a government designed to properly support every corner of this State.

What this means for regional communities is that Barilaro has gathered into his ministerial portfolio the processes for carrying forward increased land clearing, increased native timber logging on private and Crown land, as well as further exploration and mining in regional NSW. 

Water security has also been included in this portfolio - which would cover planning for future water storage and water diversion.

Based on Berejiklian Government promotional material for the Department of Regional NSW it is clear that Barilaro now sits atop a portfolio which holds in its departmental domain an est. 40 per cent of all NSW residents, in around 99 local government areas which produce approximately one-third of the total NSW gross state product.

Barilaro has gathered his own party members as minsters with responsibilities within the department - Nationals MLA for Northern Tablelands and Minister for Agriculture and Western New South Wales Adam Marshall and Nationals MLC and Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women Bronnie Taylor.

There does not seem to be a NSW Liberal Party politician within cooee of the new regional department.

Five months after becoming New South Wales regional czar, John Barilaro began to flex his muscles with threats to destabilise the Berejiklian Government and the political koala war briefly erupted.

One cannot escape the suspicion that Barilaro is not seeking to raise the profiles of those mere 18 National Party members in the 134 member NSW Parliament, but is intent on creating an alternative state government situated in regional New South Wales. 

Reading Mr. Barilaro's personal and political history as played out in the media, it is evident that he is a moderately wealthy former local government councillor & businessman, unashamedly ambitious, erratic, a dogwhistler since the beginning of his political career, willing to resort to threats and name calling, flouts the road rules at will, has long been happiest pulling the house down around the ears of government agencies in the name of  'reform', is willing to put his bootheel on the neck of north-east NSW and, apparently intends to keep pushing Gladys Berejiklian until she breaks.


Thursday, 19 November 2020

NSW Nationals lies and skulduggery in legislative game of mates exposed


The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 November 2020:

NSW's koala wars have taken another twist with Nationals leader John Barilaro forced to intervene to reverse unsanctioned changes to a bill introduced by one of his senior colleagues that threatened to detonate divisions within the Coalition government.

Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall has been accused of inserting changes to the Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2020 beyond those agreed by cabinet, multiple sources have told the Herald. Those additions expanded the "allowables" for land-clearing, which would have removed virtually all planning oversight.

Key Liberals, including Planning Minister Rob Stokes, only detected the additions buried within the legislation after it had passed the lower house with Coalition support.

Mr Marshall then refused to budge, prompting the Liberals to demand Deputy Premier Mr Barilaro to broker a deal to remove unapproved provisions and restore key protection when the bill goes to the upper house......

"Trust, in terms of negotiations, is everything," Cate Faehrmann, the Greens environment spokeswoman who led a cross-party inquiry in the collapsing numbers of koalas that found them to be on track for extinction in the wild in NSW before 2050.....

The moves within the Coalition to secure passage of the bill, though, may turn out to be futile, with upper house Liberal MP Catherine Cusack sticking to her plans to block it and push it into an open-ended committee inquiry.

"You may have heard, as I have, the government is likely to move amendments to the bill to improve it," Ms Cusack told her upper house colleagues in a communication obtained by the Herald. "However, this does not alter my opposition to it.

"I have many objections to the bill but I am particularly offended by the way it has landed like a spacecraft from Mars and rendered irrelevant decades of work and investment within an agreed framework.

"It reflects my belief that the opportunity to expose these ideas to some sunlight is the very best course we could take given the issues are not going away even if the bill is defeated."……. [my yellow highlighting]

And there may be more revelations to come.

NSW Legislative Council Notice Paper No. 68, 17 November 2020:

25. Portfolio Committee No. 7 – Planning and Environment: Report No. 3 entitled “Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales”, dated June 2020: resumption of the adjourned debate (4 August 2020) of the

question on the motion of Ms Faehrmann: That the House take note of the report—Ms Faehrmann speaking. (15 minutes)

757. Mr Searle to move— That, under standing order 52, there be laid upon the table of the House within 7 days of the date of passing of this resolution the following documents, in electronic format if possible, in the possession, custody or control of the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces or the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment relating to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019:

(a) all documents relating to the development of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019,

(b) all correspondence between the Office of the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces and any National Party Member of Parliament in relation to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019, and

(c) any legal or other advice regarding the scope or validity of this order of the House created as a result of this order of the House. (Notice given 16 September 2020—expires Notice Paper No. 74) [my yellow highlighting]

Monday, 16 November 2020

Meet the wannabe Koala killers of the Clarence Valley

Clarence Valley's very own wannabe koala killers. From left to right: Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons, Federal Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan, General Manager of Operations for Big River Group in Grafton Jason Blanch, Big River Group CEO Jim Bindon and  NSW Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis. IMAGE: Clarence Valley Independent, 11.11.20

Clarence Valley Independent, 11 November 2020:

A major restructure of Big River Group’s operations will see 20 new jobs created in the Grafton area while up to 50 will disappear from the Riverina region.

One of the Clarence Valley’s largest timber companies, Big River Group currently has two main operating facilities located in Junction Hill and Wagga Wagga.

Unfortunately, following the Black Summer bushfires, the long term supply of logs for their operations in southern NSW was severely impacted and it became apparent there was insufficient log resources in the Tumut region to sustain the Wagga Wagga facility, leading to a decision to consolidate operations at Junction Hill, where a sustainable supply of hardwood and softwood logs exist to supply productions.

Big River Group has recently been successful in securing a $10 million grant, provided through the Bushfire Industry Recovery Package, co-funded by the NSW and Federal Governments and matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis by the business, to assist in consolidating its operations and enhance the Junction Hill site.

Big River Group CEO Jim Bindon and General Manager of Operations for Big River Group in Grafton Jason Blanch were joined by Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan, Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons for the official announcement on November 4.....

Mr Hogan said the announcement was “a wonderful day for the Clarence Valley and our timber industry.”

We know the industry was devastated by the bushfires last year and this is all about creating jobs in our local region and it ensures the viability of the industry,” he said.

Along with the capacity to create 20 new jobs, Mr Hogan also said the $20 million project secures the jobs of the current 60 full time employees.

This is terrific,” added Mr Gulaptis.

It means more jobs in the Clarence Valley and Big River Group can continue on with the great work that they do.

Grafton is a timber town, Big River Group have been here for decades, they’re an integral part of our community and we want to see them here well into the future.”…..

The Wagga Wagga facility will cease operations in 2021.

Big River Group Pty Ltd (formerly known as Big River Timbers Pty Ltd) was registered as a company on 28 July 1920.  It original company profile indicates it was possibly a local family-owned business. 

It is now a subsidiary of Big River Industries Ltd, registered as a company on 18 December 2015 in Victoria. It became a public company in January 2017.

Among the current Big River Industries and Big River Group officeholders there is only one who resides in the Clarence Valley.

What the Big River Industries tells its shareholders

"Big River operates Plywood and value adding factories at both Wagga Wagga and Grafton in NSW, areas amongst the most severely impacted regions of the devasting [sic] bushfires experienced over the 2019/20 summer period. Both areas saw significant losses of forest estates as part of these fire events. This has fundamentally changed the resource supply availability to the business, requiring a change to the Company’s manufacturing asset configuration. 

Whilst the Northern NSW log resource at Grafton, that the Company accesses under supply agreements with Forest Corporation of NSW (FCNSW), will recover or can be compensated from other forest compartments within the region." 

In ASX releases Big River Industries Limited admits to revenue of $249 million (up 14%) in 2019-20 and an after tax profit of $4,444,257. It also states an expectation in its last annual report that it will expand in the future.

In the aforementioned quote Big River Industries - which in this state sources some or most of its timber from the state-owned  Forestry Corporation of Australia - is admitting that forests in the Clarence Valley were "severely impacted" by the 2019-2020 bushfire season.

In fact at least half the forest canopy overall was partially or fully affected in New South Wales fire grounds according a NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment report.

Further Big River Industries hints it expects to take advantage of the additional biodiverse forests areas that were opened up by the Berejiklian Coalition Government for the benefit of its Forestry Corporation.

You know, those native tree stands, which coincide with forested land already identified as habitat suitable for or currently containing North Coast koala populations.

Big River Industries may only have two plywood production sites however one of these is at Grafton.

The principal plywood it makes includes timber from native hardwood trees and, the Clarence Valley contains the bulk of native hardwood timber trees remaining in North East New South Wales. These trees are frequently found in predictive koala habitat on Crown and private land.

According to its 2020 annual report Big River Industries has active business interests in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, West Australia and New Zealand.

Although its assets are widespread, the apparent greed of its board of directors and shareholders means that it will not even allow the Clarence Valley two years grace before it starts buying up timber freshly felled in sensitive, biodiverse habitats likely sited outside of state forests. 

Want to tell Big River how unimpressed you are with their actions? 

Here are some contact details: 

Jim Bindon (CEO and Managing Director) Ph: (02) 6644 0903 


Or directors Malcolm Jackman (Member of Anacasia Capital Business Advisory Council), Martin Kaplan (investment director of international private equity firm Anacasia Capital), Vicky Papachristos (professional company director) and Brendan York (Chief Financial Officer & Secretary, Enro Group Ltd a international company) c/- 61 Trenayr Road, Junction Hill NSW 2460 Phone: (02) 6644 0900 Fax: (02) 6643 3328 Postal: PO Box 281 Grafton 2460

Then of course there are the wannbe kola killers hiding within international and domestic financial corporations and banks as well as self-managed superannuation funds which brought Big River . 


Top 20 Shareholders as of 30 June 2019

The question some valley residents have been voicing recently is why NSW Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis is enthusiastically supporting the Big River Group and, why on behalf of the timber industry he appears to be knowingly seeking the extinction of the koala in 

the Clarence Valley.

It seems to be a social and political relationship with another timber business which impels this politician.

The head of the Notaris family strongly disliked the idea that koala habitat 

should be protected from loggers and his family's sawmill. He even went so far as to publicly oppose a Labor candidate in the Clarence electorate and support the Nationals incumbent Chris Gulaptis during the 2015 

state election campaign because Labor had pledged to create the Great 

Koala National Park.

Chris Gulaptis read his friendship with Spiro Notaris into the NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard on 18 February 2016.

J. Notraris & Sons Pty Ltd is still operating a timber business specialising in hardwood in South Grafton today and, like most 

National Party politicians Gulaptis is more about helping out mates than acting in the public interest.