06 June 2024

Environment Law Amendments

I rise to speak to the substance of this bill before us, the Nature Positive (Environment Protection Australia) Bill 2024. What a load of rubbish I've had to listen to, about how it's not going to do anything. This is a significant step forward in protecting our environment.

I know everyone in this place thinks that the area they represent is special and unique, but the area that lies within and surrounds the electorate of Macquarie is World Heritage listed, and the Blue Mountains is the only city within a World Heritage area anywhere in the world. Our World Heritage area has eight protected areas: the Blue Mountains, Wollemi, Yengo, Nattai, Kanangra-Boyd, Gardens of Stone and Thirlmere Lakes national parks, and the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve. It's 1.03 million hectares of eucalyptus dominated landscape, one of the largest and most intact tracts of protected bushland in the country. The diverse plant communities and habitats support more than 400 animal species, of which 40 are threatened. There are 52 mammal species, 63 reptile species, over 30 frog species and about one-third of Australia's bird species. There are vertebrates like the platypus and the echidna, and, although invertebrates are still poorly known, there are around 120 butterfly and 4,000 moth species. The richness of our fauna and flora is almost beyond comprehension. It includes, of course, the Wollemi pine, something from the time of the dinosaurs. Ongoing research continues to reveal the rich scientific value of the area as more species are discovered. This exceptional biodiversity is complemented by equally special Indigenous heritage as well as post-European-settlement cultural values, geodiversity, water production, wilderness, recreation and natural beauty.

I chose to live in this World Heritage area more than 30 years ago, and now three generations of my extended family live in the Blue Mountains, so I care, and my community cares. I would not be backing this bill if I didn't believe that it is a significant step forward, a step in reversing the extinction and destruction of native species and protecting our environment better than it ever has been before. Finally we will have an independent national environment protection agency, which will have much stronger powers than anything the current department has.

Right up front let me say that I know, as I'm saying this, there are good people thinking, 'Yeah, that's great, but we want more.' Well, of course we do. We all want more, and it is Labor's commitment to do more, to build on the traditions of past Labor governments and shift the protections. Our job is as hard as any Labor government's has been, to make sure we have laws that are fit for the 21st century, where our scientific knowledge means we know much better than any Labor government before us how vital it is that we get this right.