Greens spokesperson for Healthy Oceans, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, has strongly criticised the Federal Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg for granting a blanket exemption for the NSW government to undertake a shark netting program.
Senator Whish-Wilson said, “The Environment Minister is misusing a clause in the EPBC Act that exists to allow communities to respond to national emergencies like bushfires, wars and floods without seeking approval if there might be interactions with endangered species.
“Sharks have been present in the ocean for 450 million years. People were swimming in the ocean with sharks 100 years ago and people were swimming in the ocean with sharks when Mike Baird became Premier two years ago.
“Claiming there is a sudden emergency where you don’t have time to conduct a proper environmental assessment of rolling out shark nets makes a mockery of Australia’s environment laws.
“The only sudden emergency is the freefall in Mike Baird’s public support. The Federal Environment Minister shouldn’t be claiming a national interest exemption over bad polling of his Liberal counterpart.
“The last time Greg Hunt granted an exemption for the WA Government to cull sharks he stated that it was in the national interest because media from shark interactions would impact on the tourism industry. If Josh Frydenberg has used similar reasons to grant this exemption then it’s clear the EPBC Act is being misapplied.
“Shark nets won’t make swimmers and surfers safe, but they will lead to the deaths of whales, dolphins and turtles.
"It is dangerous and counter productive for politicians and media outlets to imply otherwise.
“I will be seeking to introduce to the Senate a Bill that amends Section 182 of the EPBC Act so that it can no longer be used as a loophole for political purposes. If the exemption is being used this time because of bad headlines over shark interactions, what is to stop the Minister using the exemption for coal mines or dredging on the Great Barrier Reef,” he concluded.