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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
ABC World Today
Thursday, 13 February 2003
The federal Environment Minister, Dr David Kemp, is today adamant he is not embarrassed by a court decision which has found that the guidelines he issued last year on culling the threatened flying fox were contrary to his own environmental laws. The guidelines will be altered but, as Louise Willis reports, farmers are finding the issue more confusing than ever.
Hungry grey-headed flying foxes can be found munching on commercial fruit crops from Central Queensland to the far-west Victorian coast. The spectacled flying fox only lives around rainforest areas of North Queensland and the Torres Strait. Both are threatened species so farmers who want to protect their crops by culling their numbers are made to jump through hoops.
Late last year, the Environment Minister, Dr David Kemp, issued guidelines apparently allowing certain fruit growers to shoot thousands of the threatened flying foxes without getting federal government approval. Conservationists launched legal action. The Federal Court has now ruled the guidelines didn't comply with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The Humane Society International was behind the challenge. Director, Michael Kennedy, says he just wanted the Minister to follow his own laws.
So it has been made clear, as far as we are concerned, that the Minister can't, just by that wave of a magic wand, exempt anybody who wants to harm a threatened species from not asking the Minister first.
The Court has recommended the guidelines be changed but Dr Kemp is playing down the significance of the ruling.
Does this call into question whether you are aware of the workings of your own laws? Is this an embarrassing decision?
Not at all. These guidelines are very important and useful documents, and we are very keen and pleased to be able to clarify any wording where that may need to be clarified. But let me make it clear that no wording in the guidelines in any way affected the legal obligations of farmers under the federal legislation.
But at best, farmers would be downright confused over whether those guidelines were in fact a legal document or not.
No, I don't think they'd be the slightest bit confused about that.
But confused is exactly how farmers are feeling—Jan Davis from Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers.
It's very confusing. Not only do we have to deal with the lack of clarity in the federal legislation which puts an enormous burden on farmers.
That was Jan Davis of the Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers Organisation—Louise Willis with our story.