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Why Scott Morrison's Claims Of A Non-Existent Environmental Bill Have Sparked Anger

Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed he'd been "taking action" on environmental protection -- by referring to a bill that didn't exist.

A recent UN-backed report found one million species are at risk of extinction within decades, with the health of ecosystems in sharp decline across the globe.

The research also detailed how this extreme loss of biodiversity will destabilise the foundations of human society, including livelihood, food security, global health, and quality of life.

Morrison responded to the report on Tuesday by saying, "We already introduced and passed legislation through the Senate actually dealing with that very issue in the last week of the parliament. We've been taking action on that."

Source: Getty.

However, the Guardian noted that no legislation "regarding animal conservation or the environment passed in the final week of parliament."

The only 2019 bills that have been on the floor of the Senate related to animal protection have addressed either agricultural or industrial chemicals that ban the testing of new chemical ingredients on animals.

On Thursday, Morrison commented on his claim by saying he was "referring to the animal protection legislation".

However, Tim Beshara, federal policy director for the Wilderness Society, told 10 daily this could only refer to the Industrial Chemicals Bill, which passed both houses in February of this year, but does not protect native species -- only animals used in laboratories.

Morrison also noted that the Government committed $100 million to an environmental restoration fund in the budget earlier this year, "which deals with that issue as well".

It is not enough, said Basha Stasak, nature program manager at the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF). He told 10 daily the UN report strongly recommends the legislation of effective environmental laws, not simply funding commitments.

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This is not the first time Morrison has made such a claim about an environmental or species protection bill, Beshara said.

According to Beshara, Morrison made the same claims about a species protection bill when asked about the Darling River fish kill in January, but "it turned out the bill he was talking about had nothing at all to do with native species".

Sea turtle surrounded by plastic pollution. Source: Getty.

"Scott Morrison clearly does not want to be talking abut the environment in this election but it's very hard for the public because they're trying to comprehend the UN's doomsday extinction report," said Beshara.

The claim of an environmental or species protection bill that does not appear to have been passed through the Senate is a point of immense frustration for conservation groups.

Stasak said it is "incredibly embarrassing", and that Australians have the "right to expect that a global UN report on the extinction of a million species would be treated seriously by our Prime Minister".

Stasak said Morrison's response has revealed "just how little he cares".

Beshara said that Morrison's assertion of a "secret" plan elicits a reaction from environmental groups that is "somewhere between anger and laughing out loud".

The frustration for environmental groups is compounded by Morrison's reference to the Greens' "green tape" costing Australians jobs.

Australian Environment Minister Melissa Price speaks during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday, October 24, 2018. Photo: AAP.

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Beshara said that this is an example of Morrison trying to walk "both sides of the road" and that by referring to the prohibitive environmental stance of the Greens, the PM is "calling for the troops" from industry to back him up.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens' environmental spokesperson, said Morrison has been "caught out trying to mask the Government's inaction on the extinction crisis", and the legislation "he claims addressed the serious warnings outlined in the UN's biodiversity report this week does not exist".

Newborn endangered Leadbeater's possum. Source: Getty.

Beshara said that the primary demand of environmental groups going into the election is the establishment of a new environment act so that "the government is obliged to take conservation seriously."

"I think it shows that they [the Coalition] are not engaging with an issue that is serious in its own right and important to voters -- and that's a death sentence as a political party to be so far out of touch," Beshara said.