• LAND CLEARING AND NATIVE ANIMAL HABITAT LOSS

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:47): My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries. As Minister responsible for animal welfare, what is his response to the Sydney Morning Herald article of 7 November, which estimates that in 2017, under his watch, 10 million native animals died directly as a result of habitat destruction due to land clearing allowed under the Government’s changes to the native vegetation protection laws? In particular, how does the Minister manage the conflict of interest between his department’s support for land clearing for agriculture and his responsibilities under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to prevent animal suffering?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:47): The Government would like to see some more information and evidence to justify that claim of those numbers of species. In these couple of reports, they have come up with their own methodology about a square area size and then applied that to come out with this incredible number of animals that they claim have lost their lives as a result of the removal of native vegetation. First, I would like to see more information to justify that claim. Secondly, the Hon. Mark Pearson refers to the conflict of interest that we have in relation to land clearing. The thing that a lot of people on that side of the Chamber—the crossbench and the Opposition—fail to recognise is the habitat that is enhanced or restored under our new biodiversity changes that we put through in this State, not acknowledging at all the fact that in a lot of cases the largest numbers of approvals that we are seeing relate to invasive native species.

    Has the member ever stood in a monoculture forest of an invasive native species and not heard a bird or seen a single piece of groundcover? There is no biodiversity in those areas. These constitute a large number of the approvals that have been given under the Government’s changes. But there has been not one acknowledgement of the trees that have been planted or the sensitive areas that have been set aside. More importantly, those areas have been set aside and managed, not locked up and allowed to fester with feral animals and noxious weeds, which are among the largest threats to native animals in this State.

    So I will not acknowledge the premise of the question—that there is a conflict of interest. In large part, the habitat that has been restored, the set-asides that are being managed, the invasive native species that are being managed and controlled, and a lot of the feral weeds and animals that are being managed, are doing more for the biodiversity of this State than has occurred under previous ways of managing land in this State. I dismiss, firstly, the numbers in relation to the loss of native species. Secondly, I dismiss the claim that the legislation that this Government put through was just about land clearing. It is a matter of cherry-picking one part of the policy and not acknowledging the other parts—especially the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Government has set aside for saving our species, which also went through under the changes to legislation.

    I am not going to accept that there is a conflict, and I am not going to accept the premise of the question. I would like those opposite and on the crossbench to start acknowledging some of the other aspects of this change in the way that we manage biodiversity in this State. We know that the previous way was not working. When those opposite start citing the numbers of species that have gone onto the threatened list, they should acknowledge that that happened under the legislation and the changes that the former Government put through.

    The native vegetation laws in this State were not working, particularly for our native species. To continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result is the definition of insanity. That is why we brought a balanced change into this area, and that is why we will see an increase in biodiversity in this State as a result of those changes.

     

     

  • The Hon. Niall Blair MLC

    “IF EATING MEAT IS WRONG, I DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT”

    16th October 2018. Questions without notice to The Hon. Niall Blair MLC on climate change and meat production:

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:56): My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Niall Blair. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirms that reducing meat production is an important strategy in addressing anthropogenic climate change. Despite this, the most recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences data notes that emissions from animal agriculture have increased by 2.1 per cent, driven in part by methane production from increasing beef cattle production. Can the Minister explain what his department is doing to assist farmers to reduce their reliance on animal agriculture in order to prevent catastrophic global warming?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:57): If eating meat is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I want to support our farmers and so does the Department of Primary Industries. The member continually wants us to try to prosecute a case that livestock production is something that we should be moving away from, but that is one of our strengths in this State. There is plenty of research going on around the world looking at, for example, how to reduce the production of methane by our livestock, particularly our cattle. Some people are looking at a whole range of things such as kale and other types of feed products that will reduce the emissions coming out of our cattle. That is the type of research that we would be interested in, not the research that is trying to transition our farmers—the best farmers in the world, right here in New South Wales—away from areas that they do well and that they do in accordance with consumer expectations and any government regulations. We want to support those industries.

    We want to make sure that our farmers continue to have some of the competitive advantages that they have now, particularly as we go through the trying times of drought. The Government is ensuring that we stand by our farmers, particularly our cattle producers, our sheep meat producers and any other producers who are in the business of ensuring that we continue to provide high-quality protein not only to our domestic customers but also to customers around the world. I am not aware of any specific research within the Department of Primary Industries to try to steer farmers in this State away from beef production as the member suggested; I know that we have a lot of research happening across the State into how we can do more with less when it comes to our impact on natural resources, emissions and the environment more broadly.

    That is what we should be doing. We should be saying, “We can do this better as we go forward.” We can do more with less but we are going to continue doing it. We are going to continue producing beef and sheep meat. We are going to continue to ensure that while our customers, domestically and internationally, want to consume these products, we will be there to supply them. The view that the member is prosecuting is a minority view. While we have customers who want the meat and farmers who are willing to farm it, we will continue to support them and ensure that they can do so.

    The Hon. DON HARWIN: The time for questions has expired. If members have further questions I suggest they place them on notice.

  • THE FUTURE OF NSW ANIMAL AGRICULTURE

    26th September 2018.  Question to The Hon. Niall Blair on the future viability of NSW animal agriculture.

    Rural media is reporting that farmers are having serious difficulty sourcing hay for their sheep and cattle due to the ongoing drought. In one instance a farmer accidentally killed his sheep by feeding them excessive amounts of grain in an attempt to make up for the lack of pasture. Alternative feed such as watermelons and potatoes are being offered to feed hungry animals, with serious concerns about nutritional deficiencies, and animal health and welfare. Given that there is no end in sight for this drought, and with climate change indicating more frequent and prolonged droughts, is the Minister’s department preparing a strategy for farmers who will need to abandon animal farming in areas where it will no longer be environmentally or economically viable?

  • 68 North Coast koalas killed on the Pacific Highway since 2013

    Graphic footage has emerged of a truck driver who ignored flashing warning signs set up by Roads and Maritime Services workers who were attempting to rescue an injured koala trapped on the Pacific highway.  68 North Coast koalas have been killed on the Pacific Highway since 2013.  We understand that the truck driver has been charged.

  • Mark questions the NSW government’s ludicrous Visit My Farm Initiative

    The NSW Department of Primary Industries, with the support of the Minister responsible for animal welfare, is trailing a new charade initiative called “Visit My Farm”.

    According to the Minister this new initiative is “helping to open farm gates all over the state as part of on a new initiative to bring urban and farming communities closer through the ‘Visit My Farm’ agri-exchange trial.”

    HOWEVER, while the Minister likes to speak glowingly about the department’s new industry backed charade, a quick visit to the website reveals not a single intensive farm in its list of farms to visit. Not a single observation of sows in farrowing crates and stalls, hens in battery cages, artificial insemination, routine mutilations without analgesia such as eyeteeth removal and tail docking of piglets, de-beaking of layer chicks, and sheds where 22,000 or more broiler chickens are packed in. How can such an initiative be accurately representative of the true reality of animal farming?

    Well we asked the question……..

     

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