Jam Land, the company part-owned by the energy minister Angus Taylor and his brother Richard, has filed a legal challenge to the validity of a listing designed to protect native grasslands in the New South Wales Monaro region.
The challenge to the protections is part of a case filed in the Federal Court on Christmas Eve that is appealing the outcome of a ministerial review. The review affirmed that Jam Land had illegally cleared up to 28.8 hectares of natural temperate grassland on a property in Corrowong in southern NSW and required the company to remediate. It also found the clearing to be in breach of a civil penalty provision of the environmental protection legislation.
Although Angus Taylor’s interest in Jam Land is through an indirect shareholding, it puts him in the unusual position of being connected to a case challenging the decision of one of his government’s own ministers.
Guardian Australia has been told the minister is not involved in the court case. However, when the clearing was first investigated, he made representations to the department and the office of the then environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, about the listing of the grasslands.
In 2020, three-and-a-half years after Jam Land sprayed herbicide on the property, an investigation by the department concluded the grasslands had been removed illegally and ordered Jam Land restore 103 hectares of grasslands on another part of the property.
The company sought a ministerial review of that determination. In December a delegate for the environment minister affirmed the original findings and the remediation order.
In its appeal, the company is challenging the remediation determination and is seeking a declaration that the listing of the grasslands as critically endangered in 2016 by the then environment minister, Greg Hunt, was invalid.
The respondent in the case is the current environment minister, Sussan Ley.
Angus Taylor is a shareholder in Jam Land, via his family company Gufee, and his brother Richard is one of its directors.
The Jam Land investigation has been controversial because Angus Taylor sought meetings with senior environment officials about the grasslands while the investigation was under way. Documents released to Guardian Australia under freedom of information laws in 2019 revealed Frydenberg’s office subsequently sought advice about whether laws protecting the grasslands could be changed.
Angus Taylor has repeatedly stated that he sought the meeting with departmental officials on behalf of constituents in Hume who were concerned about the grasslands listing.
He has previously said “I did not make any representations to federal or state authorities in relation to any compliance action being undertaken.”
The department has previously said officials did not discuss the compliance matter with Taylor.
Both Taylor and Frydenberg have said the meeting was focused on the “technical aspects” of the grasslands listing. Ley’s department provided a statement saying it was aware Jam Land had commenced legal proceedings.
“As this matter is before the Federal Court, we cannot comment further,” a spokesperson said.
“We understand the court has not yet set a date for hearing of the proceedings.”
Jam Land declined to comment while the proceedings were under way.
In December, Richard Taylor said the company believed it had undertaken a best practice environmental assessment when it commissioned an ecologist to assess the property before the clearing in 2016.
That assessment was done in accordance with the relevant state legislation, he said, and the broader community had been unaware the grasslands were also listed under federal laws.
He said at the time Jam Land was considering a Federal Court appeal as “a matter of principle”.
Guardian Australia sought comment from Angus Taylor.
Source: Thanks msn.com