Turnbull writes his own to do list on heritage and threatened species
Federal Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has quietly published on the internet the much anticipated list of public nominations he is prepared to consider for listing as national heritage, threatened species and threatened ecological communities in the 12 months from October. Humane Society International (HSI) is disappointed the Minister’s self determined ‘Priority Assessment List’ list is not comprehensive enough and leaves many highly threatened places with an uncertain legal future.
Amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) last year mean the Minister is no longer legally bound to access all public nominations within statutory timeframes. Now the Minister has discretion to decide the nominations he wants to consider in any 12 month period and has been given legal sanction to procrastinate on the others indefinitely. He can draw up his own to do list on his own whim and does not need to publish his reasons.
“HSI deplored the amendments when they were passed last year because we were concerned they gave the Minister free reign to moth ball nominations that are politically difficult. Now we are seeing the predicted consequences” said Michael Kennedy, HSI Director and a former member of the Government’s National Heritage Council.
The Minister had well over 500 nominations in his inbox. Many of them were submitted several years ago that had gathered dust in the inboxes of his predecessors because they were too controversial while their wild subjects have become increasingly endangered. Minister Turnbull has decided he will only assess XX while many nominations already delayed for several years will remain in the too hard basket while the threats to them continue.
HSI has nominations for 23 heritage places, XX threatened species and XX threatened ecological communities and XX key threatening processes outstanding. We are pleased that XX of these have made it on to the Minister’s priority assessment list including Ningaloo Reef and the Tarkine Wilderness for Heritage, southern bluefin tuna and eastern gemfish as threatened species, inland grey box woodlands for listing as a threatened ecological community and trawling for listing as a key threatening process. However, HSI is concerned many important nominations for places like Cape York, Barrow Island and for imperilled habitat such as the coolabah black box woodlands may have been consigned to the waste paper bin.
“Assurances that they may get on to the Priority list next year offer little reassurance when you consider the outrageous politically motivated delays many of our nominations experienced even when the law did require their prompt assessment”, said Mr Kennedy.
Despite having so many nominations in the Minister’s in box, HSI was not notified that the priority assessment list had been published.
HSI notes that the ALP has committed to restoring the former public nomination process under the EPBC Act which (if properly applied) did not allow for such political discretion and procrastination.