Just when the NSW Liberals and Nationals had made a truce over koala policy, state parliamentary secretary Catherine Cusack decided to be the deciding vote against it. For that, Premier Gladys Berejiklian sacked her.
The bill was supposed to be a compromise between the Coalition parties, after the Nationals’ refusal to make farmers responsible for more koalas on their property nearly tore the state government apart.
“Following her decision today to move a non-government amendment to a government bill, I have made the decision to immediately remove Ms Catherine Cusack as a parliamentary secretary,” Berejiklian said in a one-line statement. Brutal.
Cusack said she couldn’t in good conscience support the compromise bull which would strip environmental controls from the planning and environment portfolios.
“My faith in the processes has been shattered,” she added, before apologising to her colleagues for breaking ranks.
Obviously Cusack will remain in parliament. You can’t fire someone from their role as an MP (we voted for them, after all!) but you can fire them from positions within the party, like Cusack’s former role as a parliamentary secretary.
Instead of becoming legislation, the bill will now be sent to the NSW Upper House Inquiry which is headed by The Greens.
Greens MP (and chair of the very same Inquiry) Cate Faehrmann was pretty confident that the bill is now done for.
“Fair to say the Nats’ koala-killing bill has been killed! Woot!!” she said on Twitter.
BREAKING: 19 Ayes 18 Noes to refer LLS bill to Inquiry. Which committee? The one I chair and which held the Inquiry into koalas. Fair to say the Nats Koala-Killing bill has been killed! Woot!!
???????????? #nswpol #saveourkoalas
— Cate Faehrmann (@greencate) November 19, 2020
From the government’s perspective, the best-case scenario is that the bill will pass well into next year, but even that’s unlikely now.
The government isn’t happy about its prospects, either.
“Our farmers deserve certainty and they do not deserve to be held to ransom by a Greens-controlled inquiry,” Berejiklian and Deputy Premier/Nationals leader John Barilaro said in a joint statement later on Thursday night.
“The Premier and the Deputy Premier have agreed the NSW Government will revert to operations under the former SEPP 44 [planning policy] by the end of the month and in the new year we will develop a policy to protect koalas and the interests of farmers.”
Regardless, the vote has bought the koalas some time, while the government must now rethink how the two coalition partners can see eye-to-eye on a compromise bill which can’t even be passed.
For those us watching at home, the koala war is BACK.