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Perrottet's Big Lie: NSW's 'strong' record on environment

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Dominic Perrottet has been criticised for ignoring the plight of Australia's endangered koalas (Image by Dan Jensen)

Dominic Perrottet's claim to "have the strongest record on environment anywhere in the country" doesn't stack up against his dismal failure to protect koala habitat in NSW, writes Sue Arnold.

THIS WEEK, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet claimed:

“We have the strongest record on environment anywhere in the country. Our policies in relation to climate change, emission reduction, national parks... We have led the country on these policies.”

Sounds a bit like the use of the "Big Lie” has crept into the forthcoming NSW state election. If Perrottet believes his record is the strongest in the country, Australia’s environment is in big trouble.    

Admittedly, the holder of the record of the worst environmental government is line-ball — it’s difficult to find any difference as every state government’s environmental record is nothing short of abysmal.

Aside from Perrottet’s ongoing lack of concern with koala extinction, the real record goes like this:

On climate change

In October 2021, as reported by Australian Financial Review, Perrottet did not resile from his top bureaucrats urging that:

'Australia needs an explosive post-World War-II style immigration surge that could bring in two million people over five years to rebuild the economy...'

It is estimated the average Australian carbon footprint is about 15 tonnes of CO2 per year — way more than the two tonnes recommended. 

Do the maths on those emissions with an extra two million people.

On climate change and emission reduction

Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) analysed approvals by NSW authorities since the start of the Paris Agreement five years ago. The analysis found that authorities had approved new fossil fuel projects expected to release at least three billion tonnes of greenhouse gas — six times more than what Australia emits in a year.

The NSW Independent Planning Commission and its predecessor have approved 23 coal and gas projects since the climate deal came into force in November 2016. According to The Guardian, this was also the month the NSW Government promised to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

On national parks 

In 2016-l7, $121 million was cut from the state’s national parks' budget, removing approximately 100 ranger jobs. Three years later, $80 million went from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

In the 2022-23 budget, $598 million over ten years is allocated to NPWS to secure 250 jobs for firefighting and conservation roles. 

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean indicated 'the funding will maintain record levels of national park firefighters and help communities develop stronger climate resilience' — whatever that means.

Both Kean and Perrottet have strenuously avoided any reference to or consideration of significant efforts by local councils, scientists, economists and communities to declare the Great Koala National Park.

Kean, as Environment Minister, was regarded as the saviour of Campbelltown koalas — the last disease-free urban population left in the state. After a visit to the area several years ago, Kean made many promises, none of which have transpired.

His responses to questions asked at a budget estimates inquiry in 2022 made clear that doublespeak is the language of the day for the Coalition.

Said Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe:

"Minister, koalas in Campbelltown is a massive issue, as you know. It is one of the few healthy koala colonies that we have left. It is under significant pressure in relation to development out there. You have previously said, 'Campbelltown is koala town and that's why we need to pull out all stops to protect them.'"

Kean replied:

"We are going to enforce the chief scientist's recommendations."

Asked Sharp:

"Are you saying you are going to enforce 450-metre corridors?"

Replied Kean:

"I have told Lendlease and I have told all the major developers down there that the chief scientist will guide the decisions of this Government when it comes to koala corridors."

Sharp then asked:

"Just to be clear, the development is going ahead without that corridor. How are you fixing that?"

Answered Kean:

"... I have made it very clear to the proponents of development down there – stage two of the Lendlease site – that they need to make it work within the guidelines the chief scientist has set. That is my position."

As yet, there are no corridors, no overpasses or underpasses allowing koalas to move safely, given the population increase projected and planned for southwest Sydney.

The estimated resident population for Western Sydney (Local Government Area) LGA for 2021 is 2,620,162. In 2016, it was estimated at 1,081,070. Massive urban projects are being constructed or projected to be built to accommodate a major planned population increase in the region.

But let’s not forget that the "policies”, which Perrottet waxed lyrical over, are also the policies of the Coalition partner — the infamous anti-koala, anti-environment National Party. Now, there’s a really strong candidate for the worst environmental policy prize.

Aside from the koala wars, with The Nationals working tirelessly to weaken the state environmental planning policy for koalas (Koala SEPP 21) and, more recently, efforts to basically do away with local government protection of habitat, there’s no mention of the "e" word in the National Party's website link to policies.

From their website it appears The Nationals don’t like environmentalists or inner-city bureaucrats who oppose building new dams:

There are environmental groups that not only oppose building new dams, but want to take even more precious water away from our rural and regional communities. For too long inner-city bureaucrats and environmentalists stood in the way of building dams, which are widely considered to be one of the best ways to get through droughts on this dry continent.

Furthermore, it declares:

'The Nationals in Government are cutting through red and green tape and we are delivering critical water infrastructure projects, including new and expanded dam projects.'

As for those inner-city activists, they’re a big problem for The Nationals:

'Farmers, feedlot operators and meatworks have the right to feel safe in their businesses and their homes, which is why The Nationals have taken a tough stand against inner-city activists that want to destroy what we’ve worked so hard to build.'

A more accurate description of The Nationals stand would be “wildlife, particularly koalas, flora, forests and ecosystems do not have a right to feel safe... The National Party is working to destroy what we’ve worked so hard to build”.

Perrottet, a devout Catholic, has perhaps forgotten the words of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on "care for our common home”:

Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us."Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

 

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail”.

Perhaps it’s time for the NSW Premier to reflect on those words.

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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