Parliamentary Secretary sacked after koala policy vote

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Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Catherine Cusack, has been sacked by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

It comes after Ms Cusack crossed the floor at Parliament yesterday (Thursday 19 November) to vote against the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020.

In her speech, the Upper House MP said the bill brought many disappointments to the surface.

“One day all of us in this Chamber will be dead and gone, but the impacts of what we decide today will last forever,” she said during her speech.

“I do not want this government or this Parliament to be remembered for a massive policy error added to the very long list of errors that we have already been making for more than a century – particularly when everyone, from scientists to councils to passionate communities, [is] telling us so clearly that this is not what they want.”

The bill hoped to amend the Local Land Services Act 2013 in relation to native vegetation land management, allowable activities, private native forestry, and core koala habitats.

Ms Cusack said the community was distressed by the changes around koala habitat protection.

“Our koalas are in so much trouble,” she said.

“In all of the communications sent to me on this issue, I have not had a single person ask me to vote for this bill – not one.

“I apologise to the Premier, to my party, and to our Coalition partners.

“The damage that is inflicted by the bill is not what they wanted or intended, but the flawed processes mean that that is what has been delivered.”

During debate about the bill, it was put forward that the bill be referred to a committee to then undergo an inquiry.

Ms Cusack’s vote was the decider but, rather than send the bill to the committee, the government decided to scrap the legislation and revert to the older policy.

After the controversial vote, Ms Berejiklian issued a one line statement regarding Ms Cusack’s dismissal.

“Following her decision today to move a non-government amendment to a government bill, I have made the decision to immediately remove Ms Catherine Cusack as a Parliamentary Secretary,” she said.

Then, in a joint statement with Deputy Premier John Barilaro, she said they would work towards creating a policy to protect koalas and benefit farmers.

“Our farmers deserve certainty and they do not deserve to be held to ransom by a Greens-controlled inquiry,” the statement read.

“The Premier and the Deputy Premier have agreed the NSW Government will revert to operations under the former SEPP (State Environment Planning Policy) 44 by the end of the month and, in the new year, we will develop a policy to protect koalas and the interests of farmers.”

First National Altitude
First National Altitude