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Sometimes it’s hard not to despair when faced with evidence of the wilful, destructive ignorance of Liberal and Nationals politicians

March 11, 2018 - 00:15 -- Admin

The Guardian, 5 March 2018:Attempts by the federal government to stop potentially unlawful clearing in Queensland were reversed after political intervention, with a highly unusual apology letter sent to every landholder suspected of planning unlawful clearing at the direct request of the minister, documents obtained by the Guardian under FOI laws reveal.In December 2015 and January 2016, the federal department of environment took the exceptional step of asking 51 landholders with approval from the Queensland government to clear their land, to explain why the clearing wasn’t unlawful under federal environmental law.But within two months, the department issued the unusual apology letter to every recipient of the initial letter, Guardian Australia can reveal.In the letter Shane Gaddes, then assistant secretary for the environment standards division, said the department “deeply” regretted any distress caused, backflipped on demands for information, and indicated the letter wasn’t part of any compliance action, but rather an attempt to help the landholders avoid legal action by activists.Internal correspondence obtained by Guardian Australia shows the apology letter was motivated by lobbying from National and Liberal MPs from Queensland electorates, as well as the pro-land clearing lobby group Property Rights Australia.More land is cleared of trees in Queensland than the rest of the country combined – with the latest figures showing 395,000 hectares were cleared in a single year – amounting to about a football stadium of clearing every three minutes.Clearing skyrocketed in Queensland after the former Liberal National party government under the premier Campbell Newman broke an election promise and scrapped clearing controls, introducing several ways for farmers to more easily clear trees.But regardless of state approvals, if a development is likely to impact a “matter of national environmental significance”, then it must also be approved by the federal government under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.Matters of national environmental significance include important populations of threatened species, the Great Barrier Reef and some migratory species.In the initial letter the federal department of environment said it had examined the proposal and concluded that it “may be necessary” for the 51 landholders to seek formal approval under federal laws. The distribution of the letter sparked outrage among landholders.The Queensland Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan said at the time that “activist public servants” were “looking for ways to circumvent the intentions” of Queensland and federal governments…..The then minister for the environment, Greg Hunt, publicly defended the action, saying: “The department must implement the law.”But correspondence obtained by Guardian Australia under FoI laws reveals the cause of Hunt’s change of heart, leading to the apology letter.In a letter to the then-chairman of the pro-land clearing group Property Rights Australia, Hunt said: “In response to concerns raised by you, Senator O’Sullivan, Senator Canavan and the Hon Warren Entsch MP, the department of environment has written to affected landholders clarifying their obligations and the intent of the first letter.”Department of Environment letter to HVA Permit Holders [1] by The Guardian on Scribd

Letter from Greg Hunt to Dale Stiller by The Guardian on Scribd