The Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 and the Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2016 repeal and consolidate a number of Acts that govern the protection and management of our bushland, particularly on private land. If passed, the legislation will lead to broadscale land clearing by abolishing property vegetation plans and replacing them with a system of self assessment, with no environmental targets, baselines or aims. Without question, this legislation will turn back the clock on conservation. It will destroy native habitats, increase erosion, acidification and salinity, threaten our vital waterways, and reverse longstanding protections designed to create sanctuaries for our native animals. In short, this legislation will decimate and irreversibly damage our native ecology. But the Government should be under no illusion because we will fight tooth and nail to protect our native wildlife. The community, environmental groups and those on this side of the House will fight to stop the Baird Government's environmental vandalism dead in its tracks.
The World Wildlife Foundation has warned that the global wildlife population has declined by almost 60 per cent since the 1970s, and that figure will hit 66 per cent by 2020. In Australia alone, close to 1,000 native bird, animal and plant species are currently threatened with extinction. That equates to 59 per cent of all mammals, 40 per cent of all reptiles and 30 per cent of all birds, and includes the peppered tree frog, red-tailed black cockatoo, smoky mouse and long-footed potoroo. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Australia tops the list of developed countries when it comes to mammal extinction—that is not a prize we should be pleased about. We are losing too many of our distinctive and unique species, and if we do not act to preserve and protect habitats we cannot expect that trend to change. Bush Heritage Australia has noted:
For every 100 hectares of bush destroyed, between 1,000 and 2,000 birds die from exposure, starvation and stress.
Land clearing drives dry land salinity, causing untold damage to bush and agricultural lands. It decimates the food and shelter available for wildlife and it increases sedimentation, which destroys our precious waterways. Land clearing intensifies greenhouse gas emissions. This contributes to climate change, which in turn destroys our fragile ecosystems through storms, floods, drought and bushfires.
Labor understood the threat that land clearing and other practices exposed our ecology to. In 2003 the Carr Government introduced bold and visionary legislation that protected habitats and got the balance right between landowners and conservationists. The legislation was painstakingly negotiated with stakeholders,including the NSW Farmers Association, scientists and conservationists. Importantly, it set an environmental test by which decisions around land clearing might occur. The Native Vegetation Act put the onus on landowners to demonstrate that clearing would have a positive environmental outcome, including offsetting lost vegetation. The proof is in the pudding because before the Native Vegetation Act we were losing 100,000 hectares of land each and every year. After it was implemented, this dropped to 12,000 hectares a year. Labor's laws saved 116,000 native animals from dying as a result of land clearing.
Those victories were not the result of legislation itself. They were hard won by landowners and farmers who understand better than most that improving environmental standards is in the best interests of agriculture.Our farmers understand the critical importance of balancing productivity with ecology. Indeed, they understand far more than we city folk ever could about what happens.
More than most, farmers are susceptible to the extremities of climate change. They live with the threat of flood,drought, storms and pest infestation—all of which are proven to be exacerbated by global warming. They understand the danger of degrading our soil and water, of decimating our biodiversity, and the impact of even the smallest tear in the fragile ecological web. Rather than pitting farmers against greenies, the Government—and The Nationals, in particular—would do well to think of what the Carr Government did before them and work closely with farmers, who are breaking new ground when it comes to innovative and sustainable practices; work with conservationists, scientists and experts; and take a considered approach to these bills.
Instead, as usual, the Government is rushing the bills through in this final session of Parliament for the year,without proper scrutiny. It is a very disappointing practice of the Government. Whereas the Carr Labor Government worked to bring stakeholders together and to get the balance right, unfortunately this Government is taking the quick route—the lazy route—and forcing these bills through. The Government would rather capitulate and tip the balance away from conservation, even if it comes at the heaviest price of all—our planet, which we share and should care for. In this, the Baird Government has form: At every turn, the Government has shown contempt and utter disregard for our natural and urban heritage.
The Government has butchered trees across Sydney, including century-old fig trees along Anzac Parade. The Government has given the green light to pumping raw sewage into Sydney Harbour, despite the fact that we have spent decades trying to clean it up. The Government has ripped up remnant bushland at Wolli Creek for WestConnex and it has sliced into precious open spaces such as Sydney Park and the Reg Coady Reserve in Haberfield in my electorate. The Government continues to condone the reckless butchery of trees across the State by Ausgrid—trying to fatten the pig for the sale of our poles and wires. It is incredibly devastating that the Government has refused to lift a finger to save heritage parklands and estates, such as Callan Park and Yasmar, from dilapidation. Instead, the Government would rather move heaven and earth to line the pockets of developers.
This is a government that cares for nothing but money; nothing will stand in the way of this Government helping the big end of town make a buck. When it comes to protecting our native wildlife and vegetation, it is clear that we cannot adopt these laws. We must say no, that we should go back to the drawing board and not rush these bills through Parliament tonight. We must preserve the land-clearing laws implemented by the Carr Government, whichsaved 82,000 hectares of bush, creeks and rugged wildlife each year. We must reject any move towards the path taken by Queensland. Some members who have spoken on these bills today have discussed how terrible that approach has been. We must find a better balance between our needs as an economy and our responsibilities as custodians of this land.
Labor has always been the party to achieve that balance by negotiating with the relevant stakeholders in a constructive way. We are very proud of our record on land clearing and on protecting the environment. We will continue to fight to protect our native wildlife and to protect our rivers, beaches and wild places. I am very disappointed with this legislation, which represents reckless vandalism after all the good work we have achieved in New South Wales. I oppose the bills.