Independent NSW MLC Justin Field has slammed the posturing of Deputy Premier John Barilaro and his National Party colleagues over the Koala SEPP following the release of correspondence from Nationals MPs to key Government Ministers that showed only a handful of letters and emails were received about the issue, with the most significant number of correspondence on behalf of logging interests.
The documents, compelled to be provided to the NSW Parliament, show a relatively small number of representations were made by NSW National Party MPs to the key Ministers involved in the development and implementation of the Koala SEPP, including, Planning Minister Rob Stokes, Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Environment Minister Matt Kean.
The primary Minister responsible for the policy, Planning Minister Rob Stokes, received 30 pieces of correspondence from Nationals MPs. Environment Minister Matt Kean received just three, while the Deputy Premier received 81 pieces of correspondence, 51 of which were received after Coalition division on the issue became public at the start of September (see document index here).
Independent NSW MLC Justin Field said, “The Nationals’ tantrum over the Koala SEPP has been shown for what it is, which is a political stunt.
“The documents make clear that the few representations that were made were overwhelming from logging and timber industry interests and property developers.
“The Nationals’ public arguments that this Koala SEPP will stop farmers farming seems to be cover for the lobbying they have been doing on behalf of the private logging industry and property developers.
“These documents show how selective John Barilaro and the National Party are when ‘speaking for the bush’. They threatened to blow up the Coalition over a policy that mostly property developers and the timber industry were interested in.
“It’s totally appropriate that we have clear rules that protect critical Koala habitat from property development and logging on private land. The public should be deeply concerned that the National Party’s threats to bring down the Government were largely about protecting the right to log Koala habitat,” Mr Field said.
The papers ordered did not include correspondence from members of the public to the relevant Ministers or correspondence between constituents and Nationals MPs which would not have been appropriate on privacy grounds. Instead, representations made by MPs to key ministers were requested and is a useful proxy to demonstrate the level of public concern and the issues raised.