30 Jan 2011, Comments (14)

The Baillieu government is breaking the law

Author: Helen

The stealthy return of cattle to the Victorian alpine national parks by the Victorian Liberal government is a payback to the National Party for their help in winning the last election. In an attempt at arse-covering, they’re touting it as a “scientific experiment”. As Robert Merkel and others have pointed out, they’re obviously taking this audacious action from the “Scientific Whaling” playbook. Simply, they’re breaking the law.

There is a well-defined legal process for such projects, developments or activities in a place of national significance, under section 68 of the Environment Protection, Biodiversity and Conservation (EPBC) Act. In early January, before they sent the cattle in, the DSE was supposed to notify the Federal environment minister, Tony Burke. After that, the Minister is required to publish the notice on the internet and invite public comment. After “consultations with the public and relevant ministers”, the Minister is required to decide whether the activity is a Controlled Action under the EPBC Act.

The impacts must then be assessed (and there are already reams of information on the damaging impact of hooved grazing animals on the Alpine environment, such as the 2005 Alpine Grazing Taskforce report and the 2006 CSIRO study into the Alpine ecology, grazing and fire.) Following assessment, the Minister then may determine whether or not to allow the Controlled Action under the EPBC Act.

It is an offence to carry out activities which may be Controlled Actions without the consent of the Federal Minister for the Environment.

According to news reports on January 12, the (Victorian) DSE claimed to have sent a letter to the Minister, but this letter appeared to have mysteriously disappeared en route.

The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment has written to Mr Burke’s office advising it of the trial and has offered a full briefing, but it has received no reply.
But the federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has not received the letter.
”Under national environment law, the onus to refer an activity falls on the person carrying out the activity,” a spokesman said.

The cattle are already in the park, so they were in breach of the law already by mid January. I haven’t seen any calls for public comment by Tony Burke for assessment of a Controlled Action under the EPBC act – anyone else seen it? At any rate, the legal process has hardly got to square one.

It’s wrong. And don’t fall for the argument that as a city dweller, you have no right to oppose it. For one thing, this is a Heritage area which belongs to all Australians, not just a handful of families. For another, it’s your taxes at work.

The $5.50 per head fee paid by the graziers when the practice was stopped in 2005 (calves born while up in the high country travelled free) represented a massive subsidy by the taxpayer to a privileged few families, since the tiny fee went nowhere near to covering the damage caused by the cattle. If the Baillieu government is hell bent on allowing these people to do their damage, will the new agistment fee be set at a more realistic level?

Also, when Alpine grazing was ended by the Bracks government, an ex gratia payment was made by the Victorian government to the tune of $100 per head of cattle for the three years after that, up to $100,000 per license holder. (H/T Wilful.) So we were still paying for them.

Now that Alpine grazing has been brought back, will they be required to pay back that money?

You or I would be sent to the wall if we attempted to do something like this, but for the macho men of the Liberal and Country parties, the law is for the little people. We saw the damage that favours for “Labor mates” did to Victorian governance under Bracks and Brumby. Stand by for government by Liberal / Country Party mates. Plus ca change.

Comments (14) »

  • KJ401 says:

    Bastards. Pure and simple. Bastards. Time to send Tony Burke a wee Dear Minister missive.

    NSW will see much the same and probably worse post the March election with the news slipping out that the Libs have been doctoring the planning and mining Acts with the help of the Mining Council. Despite the shadow Minister for Natural Resources being a Nat from a rural electorate facing increasing pressure from miners to ruin, rape and pillage both farming and reserved lands.

  • Ann O'Dyne says:

    My protest is in not eating meat, and never voting Liberal.
    The whole ‘romance of The High Country’ is a crock. a big full crock.
    Those Mansfield ‘horsemen’ are all arseholes.
    One particular family which is famous, is infamously cruel to horses (yes I have ridden there).

  • Kath Lockett says:

    It certainly does smack of ‘whaling for experimental purposes.’

    I’ll support it as long as, in return, I get to hog all of the Sorrento beachfront in my efforts to become a realistic-income-earning writer. As an experiment of course.

  • Helen says:

    Yeah! And I’m moving in with you (we’ll commandeer all the Sorrento beach houses, so you won’t have to worry about me being in your face all the time.) I get to keep one or two of the cattlemens’ horses, too. Fair’s fair, they get our heritage land, and I’ll look after the ponies a lot better.

    I LOL’d at this letter from David Davies in the AGE today-

    I HOPE the cattle reintroduced to the alpine national parks have read a leaflet distributed through Parks Victoria offices on camping in the Australian Alps and how to leave no trace.

    Among other things it says: “Please use our loo. No loo? Then bury your poo. But fair go, dig deep, and well away from water and other campers (at least 15cm deep in the soil and 100m away). A garden trowel will make it easier on your nails.”

    I am sure that with a little training and a trowel attached to heel or horn, the cattle will comply with instructions to humans. Unless, of course, the Baillieu government is happy to just let the matter drop.

    David Davies


  • Fine says:

    Ann O’Dyne, I’ve ridden they’re quite a lot and I don’t think all the families are arseholes. But, I think I probably know the family to whom you specifically refer: absolute, giant, ignorant arseholes.

    As for the rest; it would great if someone mounted a legal challenge about this. It seems like this is full of holes.

  • Helen says:

    I don’t know if the VNPA or others have mounted a legal challenge yet, but the VNPA certainly have sought legal advice (see para 2 above) and here is an action alert.

  • Mary says:

    I agree that this is wrong, although I’m uncomfortable that a party that only gets around 10 percent of the statewide vote (the Greens) thinks it has any more right to impose its will and values on the 90 percent that didn’t vote for them than the Nationals which got seven percent of the statewide vote.

  • Helen says:

    Yes, shame on the Greens for actually having principles, and shame on the party that got more votes than the Nationals despite only getting one seat versus several seats, (OH HAI Mr Gerry Mander) thinking National parks should be run according to the established science instead of trying to cook up some dodgy “science”-lite to appease your cronies.

  • Helen says:

    *Administrative note: I changed the gravatar for commenters without’em. This is not meant to imply that commenters who I don’t agree with are monsters. I just happen to think they’re cute, and the Universal Human Symbol in the other gravatar was bland and boring.

  • Citizen Cain says:

    [Mod: Ah, the trolls, they are starting to arrive in droves. Possibly from the NP side of town.

    Paraphrase]: I can’t think of anything relevant to rebut your argument, so I’ll bring up a non-argument about the premier before last! Hey, the past is a wonderful place, don’t judge me!

  • Citizen Cain says:

    C’mon Helen, you tossed in the Bracks name yet when I mention it it’s ruled out of bounds.

    For the record ALL of our major political parties and their members disgust me. That includes the Lib-NP, the ALP, and the Greens. I have never voted for the NP nor do I have the chance to do so because I live within 30k of Sydney.

    [I can’t see how either comment is relevant to the discussion, but whatevs. H]

  • Mary says:

    I gather you support Proportional Representation for lower houses?
    I still feel uneasy that a party on the fringe – most voters are, and always will be, in the centre – should have power and influence out of proportion to its numbers. The only difference that The Greens have to The Nationals in that respect is that they are left wing fringe rather than right wing fringe. Pandering to minority left or right wing sentiment when most voters are in the centre is not the way to win an election.

  • Helen says:

    Except that it’s not sentiment – the cattlemen and their Lib/Nat supporters are flagrantly rorting the State budget and the natural environment whereas the VNPA and other opponents have the actual peer-reviewed studies to show why the cattle shouldn’t be there. Like the requirement to give climate change denialism equal time on the ABC, this kind of call for “balance” doesn’t take into account the fact that the two positions may not have equal merit.

  • KJ401 says:

    Bastards. Pure and simple. Bastards. Time to send Tony Burke a wee Dear Minister missive.

    NSW will see much the same and probably worse post the March election with the news slipping out that the Libs have been doctoring the planning and mining Acts with the help of the Mining Council. Despite the shadow Minister for Natural Resources being a Nat from a rural electorate facing increasing pressure from miners to ruin, rape and pillage both farming and reserved lands.

    KJ401 – Your comment was hung in moderation, and when I clicked to approve it, WordPress ate it somehow. I’ve resurrected it from the email notification, but this may mean you’re hung in moderation a second time if you comment again. I do apologise. I hope it was just a temporary glitch. Helen

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