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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8565

Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (3:49 PM) —Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator LUDWIG —The government do not support this motion. This motion has come about because of the actions of the Greens and coalition senators in disallowing the threat abatement plan for Phytophthora cinnamomi last week in the Senate. The government had in place a plan which it considered effective. The plan included appropriate goals, objectives, actions, performance indicators, milestones and monitoring programs. The actions are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. The plan had been developed through negotiation with state and territory agencies, who had indicated their support for it.

By disallowing the plan the Senate has thrown out this work and significantly set back the process of addressing this major threat to biodiversity. As senators would know, the government is not permitted to make a regulation within six months that is the same in substance as the one disallowed. Having disallowed the 2009 plan, the outdated 2001 plan is reinstated. The actions in the 2001 plan either have been completed or do not reflect the latest research. So there is now no authoritative statement on the environmental effects of Phytophthora cinnamomi nor the best methods of responding to this threat. The government will now consider whether the 2001 plan remains a feasible, effective and efficient way to abate this key threat, as section 270A(2) of the EPBC Act requires. If that is not found to be the case, the minister may need to consider revoking the 2001 plan.

The uncertainty caused by the Greens and coalition senators also raises more serious questions about the future of threat abatement planning. The Senate has never before disallowed, as far as I am aware, a threat abatement plan, despite 11 other plans having been made, many during the term of the coalition government. It is difficult to understand why this one was disallowed while the others were allowed to stand. Given this uncertainty, it is unclear whether further work on threat abatement planning is warranted in the terms of the current Senate. The government will be considering this issue very carefully.