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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6223

Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (2:25 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment and Heritage. The minister would be aware of a recent announcement by the federal government of an agreement they reached with the Beattie Labor government authorising the shooting by fruit farmers of up to 1.5 per cent of the total population of the listed threatened species the spectacled flying fox. The agreement between the governments essentially declares that the referral provisions of the environment protection act do not have to be met if the terms of the agreement have been adhered to. I ask the minister: what is the legal basis in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for this agreement? How is the agreement different from a section 29 action declared by agreement not to need approval? If they are the same, why hasn't the minister tabled the agreement in the Senate as a disallowable instrument, as required by section 33 of the EPBC act? Will he now agree to table that agreement? (Time expired)

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —The question calls for considerable detail and includes issues of legal interpretation, which is not normally given—as is the practice—in this place. I will take the question on notice and see what I am able to provide.

Senator BARTLETT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. My question and supplementary question go to a simple matter of whether or not the government has a legal basis for the agreement it has reached with the state Labor government in Queensland to shoot significant numbers of threatened species—namely, the spectacled flying fox—in a mechanism which does not enable adequate monitoring of how many flying foxes are actually shot. Surely the minister can assure the Senate that this agreement is legal and does not go outside the EPBC act. Surely the minister can clarify that we have not reached a stage where a state and a federal government minister can simply sit in a back room and draw up an agreement to ignore our own very strong federal environment protection laws.

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —Protected species that need protection at a national level are duly protected. The act does provide for actions to be taken in certain circumstances but, as I said, I think that the best way to approach this matter would be to get a detailed response and provide the detail requested by the honourable senator.