Thread: #Grassgate II Here’s a very new story that hasn’t broken in the media yet. It’s about the Liberal National’s game of mates and the Josh Frydenberg ordered, taxpayer funded “independent” grassgate review that never was. (researcher @jommy_tee)
You’ll recall Angus Taylor’s brother Richard was alleged to have unlawfully cleared native grasses.
In return, the Taylors & their fellow farmers unleashed hell in the media and via their special advocates in Canberra.
So much so that they got a special review of the EPBC Act.
Now the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) is a massive statute protecting almost all of our special heritage, habitat & environment in Australia. And Taylor & the Nationals told Josh Frydenberg they wanted it looked at – but only the native grasslands bit.
Frydenberg & Littleproud acquiesced to Angus Taylor & the Nationals, announcing a review into the EPBC Act – but only where the environment interfered with agriculture. In March 2018, the federal govt announced Dr Wendy Craik would conduct the “independent review”.
However, in the recent Senate inquiry, Dr Craik seemed confused & told Senator Gallagher she’d been asked in April 2018 to do the EPBC Act review. But it was the consulting company Aither who’d asked her. Isn’t promising a contract to a firm before it goes to tender illegal?
So the circumstances were very muddled & if we didn’t know better, we’d say Dr Craik had been chosen by the federal government to control this review before the necessary arrangements had been put in place And perhaps the independent review wasn’t quite so independent after all.
You see Dr Craik has other paid employment.
She’s the Director of the Australian Farm Institute.
We also know NSW Farmers & Graingrowers Ltd all pushed for this review as well, with NSW Farmers even making a very large & impressive submission to this “independent review”.
Dr Craik’s director’s position at the AFI is funded by the very same groups that submitted to her independent review & who agitated for it. In a blatant breach of independence & probity, Dr Craik undertook submissions & audiences in her review – from her sponsors.
Dr Craik’s Australian Farm Institute also has a Research Advisory Council, and one of its key members is David Sackett.
David Sackett is the managing director of Growth Farms – a company founded by Angus and Richard Taylor and still part-owned by them.
Which is lucky.
Dr Craik also owns a 25 hectare small farm property near Yass; like many farmers from Yass. The property Dr Craik owns sits within the boundaries of the temperate grassland listed under the EPBC Act – the same native grasslands Dr Craik was independently reviewing.
It’s not clear if the Commonwealth’s overlay specifically impacts on the property owned by Dr Craik. However, Dr Craik’s land does contain an overlay of “vulnerable regulated land” as per NSW legislation, where clearing of native vegetation may not be permitted.
What else in this EPBC Act review was compromised you ask? Additional examples were revealed during the Senate Committee hearing in August, when the Committee heard no less than nine Department of Environment officials visited the Monaro region to discuss the EPBC review.
This extraordinary level of departmental representation in both numbers and seniority was only given to the Taylor’s Monaro region and its farmers (including Richard Taylor.)
It was never extended to any other party to the review.
At least Dr Craik thought very highly of them.
And what we are left with is a totally corrupted process.
It appears that not once throughout the process – either at the EPBC Act review’s conception, announcement, commencement and conduct – were the the potential conflicts of interest of the Chair of the review raised at all.
But from what the Australian public have seen of the entire #Grassgate issue so far – that should not come as a surprise at all.