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Minister Kean - 8th of May 2019

08 May 2019

Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) (15:11): My question is directed to the Minister for Energy and Environment. Considering the United Nations' recent report on biodiversity warns that as many as a million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction and the New South Wales Government's own State of the Environment report shows almost 1,000 native plant, animal and ecological communities are threatened with extinction in New South Wales, what action will the new Minister take to avert this biodiversity crisis?

Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Energy and Environment) (15:12): Congratulations on your elevation to this esteemed position, Mr Speaker. I thank the member for Balmain for his question. I am particularly interested in the fact that his question is on the topic of threatened species—it is great to see an environmentalist left in The Greens. The report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services should be an important wake-up call for all of us who care about the environment and all of us who want our planet to be left as a better place than when we inherited it. The report correctly highlights, as the member for Balmain did, that more than a million species are currently under threat of extinction, and that extinctions are happening more and more frequently.

The good thing is that the report tells us that it is not too late to make a difference. I tell the member for Balmain and everyone in this Chamber that that is exactly what I intend to do. The Government is already investing in a number of important initiatives to address the issues highlighted in the report and to improve the state of our environment. The New South Wales Government is investing $100 million over five years in the Saving our Species program, which has the aim of securing as many threatened species as possible in the wild over the next 100 years. The program is currently investing in practical on-ground conservation projects for more than 400 threatened plants and animals. The plants include the Bega and Gosford wattles, the black gum and the yellow gum.

The iconic Australian animals include the fur seal, the bilby, various species of wallaby including the yellow footed rock wallaby, the southern hairy nosed wombat and of course the numbat. I note in particular our Rewilding program and the great work a team is doing to reintroduce the bilby. Recently I had the opportunity to go to Taronga Park Zoo and see firsthand what is being done under that program. Large swathes of national park are being fenced off, pests are being eradicated within them, and species are being reintroduced, some of which have been extinct from those areas for more than a century. It is a great initiative that is addressing the issues raised in the report.

We also have our flagship litter reduction Return and Earn program. Prior to the introduction of the program drink containers made up 49 per cent of the volume of all litter in New South Wales. The Return and Earn program has seen almost two billion drink containers recovered and has reduced eligible drink container litter volumes by 44 per cent since 2017. For the benefit of the member for Balmain, I agree that although we are doing a lot, much more needs to be done. There is no greater risk to our environment than climate change. Climate change risks not only our plants and wildlife but also our jobs and businesses and parts of our way of life that depend on our environment.

Recently we moved quickly and established a new team within the department to focus on climate change. This will help to ensure that New South Wales is playing its part in reaching the Paris goal of limiting global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius. But it is not just about managing risks, it is also about identifying opportunities. I put on the record that I want to increase the size of our national parks and increase the quality of protection within those parks and I will be working towards that in my term as the Minister. I want us to make the most of our national parks and protect our native species so that more people can enjoy the beauty of the environment for generations to come. This report highlights the extent of the challenge and I look forward to working with every member of the House to address it. I am delighted to receive a question about the state of the environment because we all know the state of the environment for those opposite. We all saw the toxic emissions from the former Leader of the Opposition during the campaign, and it cost them dearly. 

Mr Paul Lynch: Point of order: My point of order is relevance, Standing Order 129. The first four minutes were quite relevant and interesting, but the rest of the contribution has been entirely irrelevant.

The SPEAKER: I will hear further from the Minister, who is being generally relevant.

Mr MATT KEAN: I am speaking about the Australian environment, for the benefit of those opposite. There was only one member who was prepared to stand up against the former Leader of the Opposition, that is, the electoral messiah himself—

Ms Jenny Aitchison: Point of order: My point of order is Standing Order 74 (1). I request that you ask the Minister to answer the question. 

The SPEAKER: The Minister's time has expired.