Hi twitter – here’s a tangled web of a story involving Angus Taylor, his fellow federal ministers, some confused farmers, a million dollar legislative review, a billionaire’s farms and maybe, just maybe . . . an empty drum of chemicals.
Back in late 2016, a group of confused farmers (accompanied by agronomist Stuart Burge) decided to spray some farmland in the remote southern Monaro of NSW.
That much is largely not disputed.
The herbicide they allegedly used was glyphosate, and although they had an agronomist with them (an agronomist is an expert in soil & farm chemicals) they did not seem to know what glyphosate did to native grasses.
Hence their confusion.
The problem was, some of the grasslands include tracts of protected endangered habitat.
Some of that area includes vital habitat for at least 19 threatened species, including the golden sun moth & striped legless lizard & provides refuge for many other locally rare species.
The legislation to protect that habitat was introduced in 2016 by Greg Hunt as the result of years of scientific studies, as an amendment to the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Act (1999).
It threw an overlay of grasslands protection over parcels of land – farms included.
Hunt’s amendments also meant something much more sinister.
Vast tracts of farmland under the overlay would be limited. Farm values could fall because banks value land on what % of it can actually be farmed, i.e. its production.
Which is awful if you own land in these areas.
Which raises an interesting point, because the land the confused farmers are accused of clearing, partly belongs to federal minister Angus Taylor, through a company called Jamland. In fact, one of the confused farmers was his brother Richard Taylor – who also part owns JamLand.
One of the other confused farmers alleged to have sprayed, is David Mitchell.
David Mitchell, was at the time the Local Land Services chair and a member of Monaro Farming Systems along with Richard Taylor.
And David Mitchell is also a business associate of Angus Taylor’s.
So we have an allegation of illegal land clearing against a minister’s brother & a minister’s business associates on land that the minister also owns.
And it is largely due to that very pesky section in the EPBC Act – the one that covers the protected grasslands.
No sooner had these allegations about the confused farmers made their way to the NSW govt (it’s unclear how our farmers were caught in such a remote location) than the NSW govt looked at the issue & passed it on to the federal govt.
Perhaps John Barilaro could shed light on that.
What happens next though is a mixture of confusion and intrigue.
At some stage in 2017, the matter was allegedly referred to the federal Dept of Environment & Energy, with Josh Frydenberg as the minister.
The Guardian reported Taylor asked to meet Frydenberg in March 2017.