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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

‘You can’t make deals on koalas’: outgoing Liberal MP says law strips monitoring for local vegetation clearing

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrot is standing by his government’s environmental record after outgoing Liberal MP Catherine Cusack described her koala plan as “sheer madness” and “bizarre”.

Ms Cusack claimed the Greens proposal to create a “Great Koala Park” on the central-north coast in Urunga during a parliamentary debate in the state’s upper house on Wednesday night.

The North Coast-based MLC revealed talks with then-prime minister Gladys Berejiklian and former environment minister Matt Keane during the infamous “koala wars” that nearly disbanded the alliance in 2020.

Ms Cusack said she was asked to lead an attack on civilians as liberals attempt to pass a 2020 state environmental plan policy. [SEPP] in law but then it was sidelined.

Woman In Red Coat Speaking In Parliament
Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack provides support for the Greens Great Koala Park bill.

She said she told the then prime minister she wouldn’t support it and crossed the floor, so Gladys Berejiklian sent Matt Keane to talk to her.

“I was stunned and thought oh he was joking – but he wasn’t,” she said.

She said she then turned the conversation over to her new renewable energy bill.

“And how was he broken when no one could, and I said, ‘What about the koala?’ And he said, ‘I know nothing about it – that’s all’ [then-planning minister] Rob Stokes”.

“And I said, ‘Why did Gladys send you here?’ He blushed a lot. He asked me what was offered to me in exchange for my vote and I said ‘nothing’.

Ms Cusack told the parliamentary debate that she now realized that Mr Keane had won national support for his renewable energy plan and that the Liberals had accepted citizens’ demands on the koala.

“The 1994 SEPP is still applicable for all rural-area lands,” she said. “Only residential land has been protected, and hardly any koalas have been helped by it,”

‘Shameless’ and ‘bizarre’

Ms Cusack notes that the koala recently updated its threatened status to endangered.

“How can this government stand there and tell us with a straight face and tell us that their strategy is succeeding?

Great Koala Park Bill Failed

The Greens welcomed Ms Cusack’s support for her bill, but failed to garner support from the government or the opposition.

The proposal would combine the state’s forest and national parks to create a 315,000-hectare sanctuary on the central north coast, which would protect 20 percent of the state’s koala population.

During the debate on the Greens bill, Labor’s Penny Sharp stated that although the opposition “supports the urgent need to protect koala habitat”, it could not support the Greens proposal.

“If the bill passes, a national park would be in the hands of an under-funded government department that a hostile government does not want”.

The Bills lost and Greens MLC Kate Fehrman mourned the result.

“Politics has always been winning over the koalas and what we are seeing from the Labor Party is that it is about the koalas more than the politics.”

In March, Ms Cusack announced her intention to resign from parliament over the handling of the flood disaster in the Northern Rivers by the then federal coalition government.

In May, he said the earliest practical date for his resignation would be the first week of August.

Matt Keane dismisses memories

Man Standing Talking In Nsw Parliament
Treasurer Matt Keane has dismissed Ms Cusack’s recall of the conversation.,Supply: NSW Parliament,

Mr Keane, who is now treasurer, dismissed Ms Cusack’s talks at Question Hour on Thursday.

Mr Perrotte said Mr Keane was “very good” as an environment minister.

“In a field where liberals and citizens are not seen as leaders when it comes to the environment, I think… our environmental record in our state is by far the best in the country and much of this is testament to Minister Keane. policies.”

The premier said he met Ms Cusack yesterday and still sees her as a “valued member of our team” and respects her passion and how she expresses her thoughts with “colour”.

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