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Legislative Council
National Parks Amendment (Prohibiting Cattle Grazing) Bill 2015

16 April 2015
Second reading


Ordered that second-reading speech be incorporated into Hansard on motion of Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children).

Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

Incorporated speech as follows:

Ten years ago Parliament passed legislation to end cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park to build a more sustainable future for this outstanding national park. However, this did not stop the previous government from reintroducing cattle into the national park under the guise of a scientific trial.

To ensure our precious national parks remain protected, the National Parks Amendment (Prohibiting Cattle Grazing) Bill 2015 will amend the National Parks Act 1975 to prohibit cattle grazing for any purpose in the Alpine National Park and also the river red gum national parks: Barmah, Gunbower, Hattah-Kulkyne, Lower Goulburn, Murray-Sunset and Warby-Ovens.

The Alpine National Park contains some of Australia's most spectacular mountain landscapes and a diverse array of natural environments while the river red gum national parks protect significant areas of our iconic river red gum forests and wetlands. These national parks protect land that is culturally important to Aboriginal traditional owners who have played a vital role in its management for thousands of years and continue to do so to this day.

Cattle damage high mountain catchments, trample fragile mossbeds and springs, ruin stream banks, wetlands and soaks, and pollute water. Cattle create bare ground, disturb soil, cause erosion, and threaten the survival of rare plants and animals. They also spread invasive weeds. There can be no doubt that cattle have no place in Victoria's world-class national parks.

The science has been clear for decades. More than 100 scientific papers published over more than 50 years conclude that cattle grazing causes significant environmental damage in our high country. Nonetheless, cattle were recently reintroduced to the Alpine National Park under the guise of a scientific trial on the use of grazing to reduce bushfire severity.

Previous scientific studies, in particular of the 2003 and 2006–07 fires that occurred in Victoria's high country, show that cattle grazing had little or no effect on reducing the impact of large bushfires at a landscape scale. Again, the science is clear.

Research shows that:

vegetation type, not cattle grazing, determines fire occurrence in the high country;

vegetation type, not cattle grazing, determines the flammability of bushfire fuels in the high country;

vegetation type, not cattle grazing, determines fire severity in the high country.

Cattle do not graze on the flammable wood, bark and leaves that fuel the bushfires in the high country that can impact on people, property and the environment.

Cattle grazing has been banned in high country national parks elsewhere in Australia for many years. In 2005 the Victorian Parliament voted to ban cattle in the high country. It is necessary to reaffirm that cattle grazing is not compatible with the ideals of our national parks, nor is it compatible with the community's desire to better protect our natural environment.

This bill is not about denying the mountain cattlemen's connection to Victoria's high country, or our heritage and culture. Horseriding in Victoria's high country, so memorably evoked in the iconic Man from Snowy River, is a proud part of Australia's recent history, and will continue. The mountain cattlemen and women will continue to play a role in managing the high country, using their invaluable skills and knowledge for the benefit of all Victorians.

This bill delivers on the government's election commitment in Our Environment, Our Future to, once again, ban cattle grazing in the Alpine and river red gum national parks. It complements and reinforces the earlier 2005 and 2009 legislation to cease all licensed grazing in those parks and means that the National Parks Act cannot be interpreted to allow the introduction of cattle into those parks for any purpose.

Labor is putting the care and protection of our environment back on the agenda. We are proud of our record in protecting our natural environment and our national parks. The bill will further that legacy for the benefit of all Victorians.

I commend the bill to the house.

Debate adjourned for Mr ONDARCHIE (Northern Metropolitan) on motion of Mrs Peulich.

Debate adjourned until Thursday, 23 April.