Kosciuszko Wild Horses Heritage Act Petition

I am proud to have brought a petition with more than 10,000 signatures for debate to Parliament on this very important issue. I pay tribute to the activists and environmentalists who collected the signatures, made their case to the community and built the argument for repeal of the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018. As my Labor colleagues and I argued in June 2018, the bill, which is now an Act, has put wild horses—a beautiful animal but nevertheless an introduced pest—above all other ecological, environmental and cultural values within the Kosciuszko National Park. That fact alone speaks to the absurdity, recklessness and short-sightedness of this Government and its position on this matter.

For this reason, the Labor Party opposes the bill; it has committed to repealing it in the fullness of time.

Indeed, to that end, earlier this month my colleague Penny Sharpe introduced a repeal bill to the upper House. In the meantime, the concern for us is the environmental destruction and degradation of our national park by wild horses that will be allowed to run unchecked, causing irreversible damage to soil, water, rare and threatened species, and endangered ecological communities that are unique to the Kosciuszko National Park.

Before the last election Labor made the following commitments: Firstly, we promised to ensure that the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management would be the primary document guiding the operation of the park because we understand that the best people to make decisions about the health and future of a national park are the experts within the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. They should not be undermined or tripped up by ad hoc legislation that diminishes their capacity to do their job in line with their professional experience and expertise.

Secondly, we promised to restore resources to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service that were cut by the LiberalNationals Government and to restore its capacity to protect the pristine environment and threatened species of the Kosciuszko National Park. We committed to this because we have seen the impacts of the relentless cutbacks of the Government.

Thirdly, Labor promised to minimise the impacts of pest species—both plant and animal—through adequately funded and effective control programs, which would have included wild pigs, dogs, deer and horses. We also promised to repair the mountains' catchments by establishing a highly trained Kosciuszko works crew dedicated to halting erosion and restoring and repairing the slopes, wetlands and mountain streams that are currently under threat as a consequence of the wild horse population. This is what responsible custodians of those lands should pursue. It is what experts, traditional owners, our Aboriginal Elders, our national parks workers and scientists are telling us ought to happen in this unique and pristine environment.

I note, for the Government's benefit—although I suspect it does not care—that the legislation it enacted last year has faced universal condemnation from the scientific community, academic experts and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service staff.

Stakeholders from the tourism industry, recreational fishers, land rehabilitation groups and wild horse rehoming organisations have also opposed the plan. We know that the Liberal members in this place are ill at ease with the Act and the destruction being writ large upon the Kosciuszko National Park.

We know that they only voted for it to secure the cooperation of The Nationals for one privatisation deal or another—or perhaps, as a quid pro quo for the Sydney stadiums fiasco. We know that in their hearts the Liberals know that this is bad legislation; we know they want to get rid of it. The petition and those of us on this side of the Chamber call on the Government to take up John Barilaro's oftrepeated offer to rip up the Coalition agreement and then we call on the Liberals to join with Labor and repeal this garbage legislation.

We need to rip up and repeal the Act and remove those destructive pests from our national parks.

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