Report, Motion to Take Note

Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (3.15 pm): I rise to speak on the report titled Examination of Auditor-General Report No. 7: 2018-19—Conserving threatened species. This report highlights the gap between stark reality and the government’s hypocritical chest thumping and self-congratulation about its conservation credentials. It is a case of spin versus reality—of judging the government on what it does and not what it says.

The objective of the Auditor-General’s inquiry was to find if the department ‘has strategies and plans in place to effectively protect threatened species and their habitat’ and if it ‘is effectively monitoring and reporting on threatened species outcomes’. A key finding is that the government had ‘no strategy or framework for conserving or managing threatened species’ in place. The Auditor-General found that ‘efforts in managing threatened species lack purpose, direction and coordination’ and that ‘the department largely focuses on individual species, rather than taking a strategic approach to conserving all threatened species’. I repeat: ‘lack purpose, direction and coordination’ and has no strategic approach. It is not a surprise. The government claimed the black-throated finch was a threatened species only to change the finding overnight after it was politically savaged at the polls. It is all about political measures, not practical measures.

The recent bushfires showed a complete lack of knowledge, coordination and good management in implementing a conservation strategy for the state. The strategy is based on photo opportunities to appease greenie activist organisations. Action is driven by pandering to their interests and not good governance.

Other comments in the report are just as critical, with findings of ‘no plan’, ‘no coordination’ and ‘not on track to meet all obligations’. The Auditor-General found that ‘Queensland is not on track to meet all its obligations’ on a nationally standardised approach to assessing and listing threatened species.

The report said that ‘comprehensive project governance arrangements had not been developed and there was no overreaching plan to coordinate activities’. The government constantly claims it is getting on with the job. It is a feeble example of what it means to get on with the job.

The department is obsessed with legislation. Regulations that impose onerous burdens on farmers, landholders and rural and regional industries only hinder good land management and make it harder to protect threatened species.

The bushfires that ripped through the state highlight irresponsible government vegetation management practices which fuelled those fires and destroyed native animals and thousands of hectares of bushland in their wake. Creating a haven for feral animals and pests, uncontrolled weeds are often a fire hazard, and biosecurity risks on poorly managed state controlled land pose a risk to threatened species. It creates ongoing issues for landholders neighbouring state controlled land.

The report notes that the Nature Conservation Act requires the government to develop an integrated and comprehensive conservation strategy to achieve the conservation of nature for the whole of the state. Simply locking land away does not protect threatened species, its biodiversity or the land.

It opens the door to feral animals, pest and weed infestation and serious fire risks.

State land is being overrun with invasive weeds which strangle native species. It is not being cleared or managed and it is ripe for a fire to tear through. Feral animals are multiplying because those who help keep them in check are being hamstrung by bureaucratic nightmares.

At considerable expense and at no cost to the state, farmers and landholders help preserve threatened species when they can efficiently manage declared environmental weeds, feral animals and fuel loads preventing catastrophic bushfires which destroy every living animal and plant in their path.

They manage declared weeds and animals such as wild dogs, feral pigs, foxes, cats, rabbits, giant rat’stail grass, groundsel bush and environmental weeds such as lantana, noogoora burr, wild tobacco bush and cat’s claw creeper.

The Auditor-General made seven recommendations and identified clear areas for improvement in the management of threatened species which the department has accepted. The department also urgently needs practical commonsense measures to help preserve threatened species.

Government members speaking on the report heaped self-praise on the government’s

conservation credentials. Those credentials are based on an obsession with granting excessive powers to bureaucracy, often have little scientific basis, are rushed, impose exorbitant fines, impinge on freehold property rights and devalue farming in rural and regional industries.

Most people want to protect the environment and preserve threatened species. Farmers and primary producers take seriously their responsibility as custodians of the land, ecosystems and biodiversity. They know they must care for it now for future generations. If the government wants to conserve threatened species, it should stop pandering to a green agenda and focus on practical and workable measures, not political ones.