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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1443

Senator RICE (Victoria) (17:13): I will speak only briefly, to add to Senator Bartlett's remarks about this Audit Office report on funding models for threatened species management. I urge anyone who is concerned about the way that this government is not addressing our threatened species to read this report, because it shows that, even within the very limited framework that the government is applying, it is failing to do that adequately. This report shows, first of all, the lack of consistency, the totally ad hoc nature of this attempt to get private funding into the management of threatened species, the lack of a framework that was established at the beginning of the process and the lack of consultation with the threatened species advisory committee. Even in the limited framework that's been set up, this approach with the prospectus has failed. It just goes to the heart of the lack of attention and the lack of importance that this government places on threatened species. If we were serious about protecting threatened species, we would not be acting in such a random, ad hoc, ineffective, inconsistent and fundamentally underfunded way to protect our precious animals and plants, which are special, which are unique to Australia.

What this report doesn't go to is the fact that even the species that are being focused on in this prospectus are only a small portion of the threatened species that need programs to be put in place to address them. It talks about the fact that the species included in the prospectus were chosen in a pretty random, ad hoc way and chosen without adequate consultation. But what it doesn't show is that there are a whole range of other species that this government and the Threatened Species Commissioner have deliberately chosen not to include.

This is important because, if you hear this government talk about its approach to threatened species, it talks about the Threatened Species Commissioner role as being of fundamental importance. It talked about the prospectus as being a fundamental measure, a tool, to address threatened species. Yet that is not succeeding there, and it is leaving a whole raft of other species completely underresourced in terms of the measures that need to be taken to address them.

In particular, the threatened species that weren't included in the prospectus are those under threat from habitat destruction due to resource exploitation. I'm particularly talking about logging operations and mining operations. With logging operations, we know that the species that weren't included in this prospectus include ones like the Leadbeater's possums, which are affected by logging in Victoria's Central Highlands. They include species like greater gliders, which have now become vulnerable because of loss of habitat due to logging operations. These weren't even mentioned in the prospectus.

Even under the limited scope that has been outlined, they are doing it badly. It speaks volumes, and it shows that the approach of this government is completely inadequate to protect our precious plants and animals; that we need to have a serious, whole-of-government approach to address the protection of our species, the plants and animals that are threatened; and that we need to have serious resources put into it. You can't just hope that you're going to get private sector funding to help address threatened species. In fact, the lofty aims of this prospectus to gain millions of dollars of funding have so far resulted in only two projects having private sector funding, one to the tune of $200,000; the other, only $10,000. It is not the way forward. It is not how we are going to address threatened species.

We can put the money into it, and we need to if we're going to protect these animals. We can cut the tax breaks for the big end of town. We can raise revenue of billions of dollars by making sure that we get rid of fossil fuel subsidies for the mining industry, for example. We can invest serious money into our threatened species, and that's what we need to do if we are going to have animals like the Leadbeater's possum actually pulled back from extinction, if we are going to have the plants and animals that we appreciate today continuing to be available in our natural environments, and particularly in our forests, for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Reynolds ): Senator Rice, are you seeking leave to continue your remarks?

Senator RICE: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.