Wednesday, 18 November 2020

November 2020 was a month for discovering more Liberal politicians behaving badly

 


In 2012 Victoria Liberal MP David Southwick (left) was forced to apologised for misleading personal information on his website, including false claims he was an "adjunct professor" at RMIT and had obtained a graduate diploma from Monash University. In November 2020 he or someone connected with him was allegedly caught out again attempting to manipulate Facebook using bogus accounts.




Very much married federal Acting Immigration Minister and Liberal MP for Acton Alan Tudge (left) publicly apologised for having an intimate relationship with his then media advisor in 2017 after he was ‘outed’ on national television in November 2020.






That same television program revealed Australian Attorney-General & Liberal MP for Pearce Christian Porter (left) as a rather unlovely person with unacceptable attitudes to women.





In the midst of media discussions about intimate relationships between parliamentarians and staffers during November 2020, NSW Liberal Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoffrey Lee (left) 
admitted he was in a relationship with his former media advisor.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

The NSW Native Vegetation Regulatory interactive map was last updated on the 1 November 2020 and shows land on which native vegetation regulations may be weakened or removed by the Berejiklian Government before 26 November 2020

 


This is the Native Vegetation Regulatory (NVR) Map which was last updated on the 1 November 2020.

This is an interactive map which community researchers can access at:
https://www.lmbc.nsw.gov.au/Maps/index.html?viewer=NVRMap.

The mapping covers:

Category 1 – exempt land – native vegetation clearing is allowed without approval from Local Land Services. Category 2 – regulated land – authorisation may be required from Local Land Services for native vegetation clearing. This may include clearing under the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code 2018. Landholders also have a range of allowable clearing activities available to them for use without approval from Local Land Services. 

Category 2 – vulnerable regulated land is designated as steep or highly erodible lands, protected riparian land or special category land. Use of the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code 2018 and allowable clearing activities are restricted in these areas. 

Category 2 – sensitive regulated land is designated as environmentally sensitive. Clearing under the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code 2018 is not permitted in these areas, although there is a limited list of allowable clearing activities available. Excluded land is managed outside the land management framework. Other clearing controls may exist in these areas. 

Category 2 – vulnerable regulated land is displayed on the NVR map as Orange

While Category 2 – sensitive regulated land is displayed  as Pink

In some circumstances, Category 2 – sensitive regulated land and Category 2 – vulnerable regulated land exist on the same land. If these two categories overlap, they are displayed as Brown on the map.

Excluded land is displayed as Grey

Category 2 – vulnerable regulated land can include: 

steep and highly erodible land: land with a slope >18 degrees and/or where soil characteristics, slope and rainfall erosion present a high erosion risk 

protected riparian landland within 20 meters of the bed or bank of a named natural watercourse or waterbody. This land filters runoff into streams and provides habitat for many plant and animal species and, in many cases, are the only remaining natural corridors in the landscape. 

special category land: exists over some areas of NSW considered to be at particular environmental risk and includes land vulnerable to soil erosion, salinity, sedimentation and/or landslip. 

Environmentally sensitive land defined as 'special category land' could include the following: 
  • Aboriginal site protection 
  • coastal dune protection 
  • erosion hazards 
  • flora and fauna protection 
  • geological/geomorphological site protection 
  • habitat protection, 
  • scenic values 
  • mass movement areas, and 
  • saline areas. 

Category 2 sensitive regulated land includes a wide range of land including: 
  • Old growth forest 
  • Rainforest 
  • Critically endangered ecological communities 
  • Critically endangered plants 
  • Core koala habitat 
  • High conservation value grasslands or other groundcover 
  • Areas of outstanding biodiversity value 
  • Ramsar wetlands within the meaning of the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 
  • Land described as Coastal Wetlands in the Coastal Zone referred to in the Coastal Management Act
  • Land described as Littoral Rainforest in the Coastal Zone referred to in the Coastal Management Act 
  • Land is subject to an approved conservation measure that was the basis for other land being biodiversity certified. 
As well as land that is under various official conservation agreements or set aside for other conservation, offset or remedial undertakings.

BACKGROUND


Morrison Government to settle 'robodebt' class action out of court reportedly for in excess of $1.2 billion

 

In July 2016 the Turnbull Coalition Government began to issue income compliance notices based on automated data matching to recipients of government cash transfers such as Job Seeker, Youth Allowance, Abstudy, Single Parent Payments and Family Tax Benefit payments.

At the time the then Minister for Social Social Services Scott Morrison expected to clawback an est. $1.7 billion dollars over five years from individuals who were, or had been in the past, receiving a Centrelink pension, benefit or allowance.


On social media and elsewhere the scheme began to be called 'robodebt' and unverified reports began to emerge of vulnerable people in receipt of large robodebts suiciding.

In February 2019 it was revealed that the Morrison Government had spent between $400m to recover just $500m from welfare recipients through the flawed 'robodebt' scheme.

By 2019 at least 570,000 of over 600,000 income compliance notices issued were considered to be unlawful. As were Australian Taxation Office garnishee notices associated with these alleged debts.


In November 2019 the Morrison Coalition Government called a halt to using automated data matching to calculate income compliance, as it was faced with at least one adverse court judgment and a forthcoming class action in the Federal Court of Australia.

On 29 May 2020 the Morrison Government announced that it now accepted that many debts raised under the 'robodebt' system were unlawful and, consequently, that it would refund 470,000 debts raised totalling $721 million to 373,000 people. This refund did not cover all members of the class action.

The class action was scheduled to go to trial on 16 November 2020.

Yesterday, Monday 16 November, came news that the class action had been settled out of court by the Morrison Government. Presumably in order that Morrison & Co. along with senior Social Security and Centrelink bureaucrats could avoid the possibility of having to give evidence in court, to avoid any legal admission of liability and, to avoid the risk of a detailed adverse judgment.

It seems that Scott Morrison's personal war on the poor and vulnerable, begun when he was Minister for Social Services and continued on during his time as Treasurer and now as Australian Prime Minister, has cost the federal government well in excess of  $1.2 billion when one factors in the federal government's legal costs and the pre-existing 'robodebt' scheme administration costs - including debt recovery agent commission payments.

Gordon Legal, media release, 16 November 2020:


Gordon Legal announces today the settlement of the Robodebt Class Action, subject to the approval of the Federal Court of Australia.


The settlement reached with the Commonwealth of Australia means that if approved by the Court, since the commencement of the Robodebt Class Action, more than $1.2 billion in financial benefit will have been provided to approximately 400,000 group members.


In settling the class action, the Commonwealth has not admitted that it was legally liable to Group Members. [my yellow highlighting]


KEY POINTS:


The total financial outcome achieved is made up as follows:

  • The Commonwealth has today agreed to pay $112 million in compensation to approximately 400,000 eligible individual Group Members, including legal costs;

  • The Commonwealth is repaying more than $720 million in debts collected from Group Members invalidly and will continue to provide refunds;

  • The Commonwealth has agreed to drop claims for approximately $398 million in debts it had invalidly asserted against group members of the class action;

  • Subject to Court Approval, a Settlement Distribution Scheme will provide that eligible individual Group Members’ entitlements will be assessed and all amounts due to them be paid in 2021.


Subject to approval by the Court, a notice setting out the details of the proposed Settlement Distribution Scheme and the Court approval process will be provided to all Group Members.


Gordon Legal Partner, Andrew Grech said:


We want to acknowledge the courage of the lead applicants; Katherine, Elyane, Steven, Felicity, Shannon and Devon, who led these proceedings on behalf of all Robodebt victims in pursuit of this class action, which has allowed this outcome to be achieved today.


Our clients have asked us to especially thank Bill Shorten for his relentless pursuit of this issue, for his compassion over the last four years for vulnerable Australians hurt by Robodebt and for bringing the case to Gordon Legal’s attention when it seemed that all other options had been exhausted and only resorting to the legal system would help.


Once again we would like to acknowledge the work of the legal team at Victoria Legal Aid, who worked tirelessly to bring a number of individual claims before the Federal Court before the Class Action was commenced as well as the efforts of many community legal services in the Welfare Rights Network, such as Social Security Rights Victoria who have been advocating for victims of Robodebt for the last few years.


Our clients would also like us to acknowledge the Federal Court of Australia for its preparedness to schedule frequent case management hearings and to facilitate a trial of the proceedings so quickly, notwithstanding the difficult circumstances of the Melbourne Covid-19 lockdown.”


ENDS –


For more information visit: https://gordonlegal.com.au/robodebt-class-action/robodebt-faqs/


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 

e: jbindon@bigrivergroup.com.au 


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.





Lismore MP Janelle Saffin secures $1.14 million in extra bushfire support for Tenterfield and Kyogle businesses


Office of the NSW Labor Member for Lismore, media release,13 November 2020:


Janelle Saffin pays a visit to Kyogle RFS

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin has reminded eligible small businesses in Tenterfield Shire and Kyogle Local Government Areas that they have one more month (until 15 December 2020) to apply for the $10,000 Bushfire Support Grant.



Ms Saffin said she was proud to have successfully lobbied for both LGAs to be included in the grant program, which had delivered $1.14 million in much-needed extra financial support to 114 local businesses in her electorate.



As of this week, 80 businesses from Tenterfield Shire had been approved for the $10,000 grant and 34 had been successful in securing the grant within Kyogle Council’s boundaries,” Ms Saffin said.



Service for Business (SfB) NSW tells me another nine applications are currently being assessed and that they welcome more applications from eligible businesses over the next month until the closing date of Tuesday, 15 December, 2020.



I want to commend SfB NSW staff on how they have supported eligible businesses on the Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands, not only with this specific grant but on a range of COVID-19 assistance this year.



It is a shame that the NSW Government did not see fit to match its $45-million rescue package for NSW businesses impacted by the NSW-Victoria border closure because our local businesses south of the Queensland border have taken equally big hits while that closure was in force.



The NSW Government must ensure that it continues to provide support for small business as we head into 2021 because we still have a long and uncertain road to travel as we try to recover from this once-in-a-century pandemic.”



Ms Saffin said she was also supporting grant applications being lodged by communities in Drake and Woodenbong to establish bushfire evacuation centres, which, if successful, would build resilience in these bushfire-prone areas.



For more information about the NSW Government’s Small Business Bushfire Support Grant go to https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/campaign/business-support-bushfire-impacted-communities or if you’re not able to apply online, visit a Service NSW Centre.

 

Sunday, 15 November 2020

NSW Forests War: State of Play November 2020


NSW Greens and a NSW Independent in the state parliament upper house placing the concerns of many ordinary people in regional New South Wales on the record.


Legislative Council Notice Paper No. 67—Thursday 12 November 2020, excerpt:


163. Remapping of old-growth and high-conservation-value public forests: resumption of the adjourned debate (8 August 2019) of the question on the motion of Mr Field:


(1) That this House notes that:


(a) the Government is planning to allow logging in thousands of hectares of old-growth and high-conservation-value public forests on the North Coast that have been off limits for decades,


(b) these forests are rare and important ecosystems which provide irreplaceable habitat for many threatened species, such as koalas, gliders, quolls, frogs and owls,


(c) they have been protected as part of the nationally agreed reserve system for decades and have been granted state significant heritage protection for their historical significance, including to Aboriginal people, aesthetic significance, research potential, rarity and valuable habitat,


(d) this process is being driven by a desire to access more timber, based on a Forestry Corporation calculation that new rules under the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (CIFOA) to protect koala habitat and threatened ecological communities could result in a small timber supply shortfall of up to 8,600 cubic metres per year,


(e) despite advice from the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) that this wood supply shortfall “represent[s] the worst case scenario and may never be realised”, the Premier requested the NRC consider remapping old growth forests and rainforests to meet this shortfall,


(f) a pilot study of 13 areas of state forest found that remapping could open up 78 per cent of protected old growth forest to logging, despite all sites having vitally important habitat,


(g) the Government has committed over $2 million to this remapping process, despite this cost far outweighing the $1.5 million value of buying back the contracts for the maximum claimed timber shortfall,


(h) the funding is being provided by the Government despite the NRC recommending that any remapping and rezoning should be paid for by Forestry Corporation as the beneficiary, and


(i) remapping on private land has already opened up over 29,000 hectares of previously protected old growth forests to logging in recent years.


(2) That this House agrees that remapping old growth forests:


(a) breaks the Government’s commitment to no erosion of environmental values under the new CIFOA,


(b) is based on timber supply impacts that are not verified and probably do not exist, and


(c) is a subsidy to logging which exceeds the value of the extra wood supply.


(3) That this House call on the Government to:


(a) end the remapping and rezoning of old-growth and rainforest on public and private land,


(b) ensure no areas of forest currently protected will be opened up to logging, and


(c) conserve native forests to protect biodiversity, store carbon and provide new tourism and recreational opportunities—Mrs Maclaren-Jones. (15 minutes)


Debate: 1 hour and 45 minutes remaining.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


749. Ms Faehrmann to move—


(1) That this House notes that:


(a) the National Party has threatened to blow up the government in the midst of bushfire recovery, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis over the new Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) that aims to strengthen protections for koala habitat,


(b) the new Koala SEPP will have little impact on the majority of farmers across the state as it is only triggered at the point of development consent, and


(c) since the 2011 state election the NSW National Party has had ministerial responsibility for water, agriculture and regional New South Wales which has resulted in:


(i) a dramatic increase in the clearing of native vegetation and threatened species habitat with the winding back of native vegetation laws,


(ii) increased logging of koala habitat after the 2019-2020 bushfire season which saw 24 per cent of koala habitat on public land severely impacted and up to 81 per cent of koala habitat burnt in some parts of the state,


(iii) the gross mismanagement of the Murray Darling Basin including selling out downstream communities on the Lower Darling by over-allocating water to their corporate irrigator donors turning a blind eye to ongoing water theft in the Northern Basin including and pushing the Barwon-Darling River system into hydrological drought three years early,


(iv) incompetent management of regional town water supplies that saw multiple regional centres coming close to day zero, in some cases having to rely on bottled water, over the summer of 2019-2020.


(2) That this House acknowledges that the NSW National Party cannot be trusted to manage our land, water and environment and calls on the Government to strip them of their portfolio responsibilities and end their coalition agreement.


(Notice given 15 September 2020—expires Notice Paper No. 73)


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


BACKGROUND


The O’Farrell Coalition Government corporatized state-owned Forests NSW on 1 January 2013 and renamed the organisation Forestry Corporation of NSW. The company is headquartered at West Pennant Hills in metropolitan Sydney, New South Wales.


It is one of the largest forestry companies in Australia today and produces around 14 per cent of the timber harvested in Australia.


This corporation manages est. 2 million hectares of state forests, along with around 200,000 hectares of softwood plantations and 35,000 hectares of eucalypt plantations.


Est. 30,00 hectares of state forest are harvested for timber each year by more than 100 contractors who undertake harvesting and haulage and other aspects of its operations on behalf of the Forestry Corporation.


The combined take from state forests and plantations is around 50 million tonnes of timber annually.


Nominally all individuals and groups in the state are considered potential stakeholders in the Forestry Corporation of NSW. Except that all regional residents get for being stakeholders is an ongoing loss of both wildlife habitat and forest trees in the districts in which the Corporation operates.


The Corporation’s native timber harvesting is focussed on north east NSW and it is looking to forestry plans on private land and logging in currently protected forest areas to supply it with native timber into the future.


In October 2020 the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) commenced five prosecutions against Forestry Corporation of NSW in the Land and Environment Court for allegedly felling trees in protected areas in northern NSW, including trees in core koala habitat in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest.


This is not the first time the Forestry Corporation has been caught allegedly breaching the terms of its licence and I suspect it will not be the last.


Commercial logging is not the only issue of concern. So is land clearing generally.


According to the NSW Valuer-General’s Office, on 1 July 2019 there were 2,603,793 individual property lots in New South Wales.


Of these 238,842 are private properties zoned rural and classified as either non-urban, primary production, rural landscape or rural small holdings.


The NSW North Coast contains 56,095 or 23.4% of all these private rural property lots, the North-West contains 14,143 lots, Northern Tablelands 11,864, Murray 10,353, Hunter 15,950, Hunter Coast 6,357, Central West 20,688, Central Tablelands 18,972, Riverina 17,924, South Coast 18,974, South East Regional 20,164, Sydney Central 3, Sydney Coast South 11, and Sydney Coast North 1,208. 


Currently owners of those private rural properties which are situated near bushland in 10/50 Entitlement Clearing Areas have an almost unfettered right to clear trees within 10 metres of their house and farm sheds, as well as underlying vegetation under trees for a further 50 metres, as a bushfire protection measure.


However, in addition to this proven effective bushfire measure, now the Berejiklian Government is also progressing another amendment introduced to the Legislative Assembly on 10 November 2020 - this time an amendment to the Rural Fires Act 1979 titled Bushfires Legislation Amendment Bill 2020.


This amendment if passed will allow the owners of all 238,842 of these private rural properties in New South Wales to clear trees and vegetation within 25 metres of a property’s boundary with adjoining land and, lays down processes so that these landowners can ensure their immediate neighbours do the same - thus making the land clearance in effect 50 metres wide.


A specific measure that does not appear to be included in recommendations found in the Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry dated 31 July 2020.


A potential 50 metre open space on all four sides of up to 56,095 private rural properties on the NSW North Coast from the Mid-Coast to the Queensland border represents a significant tree cover and habitat loss.


Of course after 232 years of land clearing this degree of native vegetation clearing is no longer required on a great many properties because barely a tree stand survives in some districts.


This is an aerial view of a section of the Moree Plains showing its typical landscape in 2020:




According to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, by mid 2018 bulldozing of bushland nearly tripled around Moree and Collarenebri after safeguards which existed in Native Vegetation Act 2003 were repealed by the NSW Baird Coalition Government, with 5,246 ha of Koala habitat destroyed at a rate of 14 ha per day in 2017-18.


Moree has a history of opposition to any checks on the ability to clear land. In 2014 this sadly led to the killing of an Office of Environment and Heritage compliance officer and the later conviction of a prominent landowner for murder with a sentence of 35 years imprisonment.


The Guardian, 27 March 2020:


Land-clearing approvals in New South Wales have increased nearly 13-fold since the Coalition government relaxed laws in 2016, according to a secret report to the state cabinet by its Natural Resources Commission.


The report, marked “Cabinet in Confidence”, was commissioned by the government in January 2019 under an agreement between the Liberals and Nationals to review land clearing if applications exceeded 20,000ha a year. The commission handed it to the government in July, but released it only after the Independent MP Justin Field threatened legal action…..


The commission found more than 37,000ha were approved to be cleared last financial year, almost 13 times greater than the annual average rate across the decade to 2016-17. Approvals jumped more than 70% after the rules covering land clearing changed at the start of 2019, rising from 25,247ha in the final quarter of 2018 to 43,553ha in the first three months of the new year. 


The commission found the extent of the land clearing and what is described as “thinning for pasture expansion” was putting the state’s biodiversity at risk. The government had promised to protect between two and four times as much land as it cleared, but had failed to do that in the majority of the state. 


It also highlighted the lack of an effective monitoring and compliance regime to ensure laws were enforced. In a six-month stretch between August 2017 and January 2018 there was 7,100ha of unexplained land clearing. It was 60% of the clearing in that time.... 


The Nature Conservation Council of NSW said the report showed the National party was incompetent. Its chief executive, Chris Gambian, said it was a damning assessment of how the government had handled what was supposed to be a signature reform. 


“This report is alarming because land clearing is a key threat pushing most of the state’s threatened species towards extinction,” he said. 


“Koalas and other vulnerable species are being smashed from every direction, by bushfires, drought, logging and land clearing. Land clearing is one of the few threats we can tackle directly, but the National party is preventing this government from doing what is needed.” 


Gambian called on the government to release regulatory maps that were still not available two years after promised.....