Environment officials sensitive to Angus Taylor's grassland meeting, e-mail show News in Australia

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The officials of the Department of the Environment were very sensitive to the encounter with Angus Taylor on the endangered grasslands while his family was investigated for alleged illegal logging in New South Wales, according to internal emails.

The information is revealed at a correspondence that had previously been partially compiled from documents obtained by Guardian Australia under the freedom of information laws in June of this year.

He arrives after Labor again chased the minister for emissions and energy reductions on Tuesday and invited him to resign.

The the correspondence shows a senior departmental official, Geoff Richardson, sending emails to colleagues on March 15, 2017, five days before he and other colleagues met Taylor and Josh Frydenberg's office on the government's designation of natural temperate grasslands threatened with extinction in the south-eastern highlands.

"On Friday I have a meeting with Monica Collins [the person in charge of compliance] to understand the circumstances of this becoming a problem, which I believe are the compliance actions initiated by New South Wales regarding the remediation conducted in one or more properties south of Cooma, "he writes.

"I need to understand this to know what Matt and I need to avoid a lot in every discussion with Mr. Taylor."

The department also revealed in the answers to questions from a Senate committee that the meeting took place in Taylor's office at the parliament building and that no official took notes.

At the time of the meeting with Taylor, state and federal investigations were underway to ascertain whether the company Jam Land Pty Ltd had illegally freed land containing herbs in the Monaro region of New South Wales.

Angus Taylor's brother, Richard, is one of the directors of Jam Land and the same minister holds an interest in the company through his family investment company, Gufee.

In his e-mail, Richardson writes to colleagues that he is looking for information for the meeting on why the list of grasslands has become a problem. He clarifies that he believes the reason is the compliance action related to the compensation.


Angus Taylor's prairie story: so what's the story? – video explainer

Monica Collins, the department's compliance officer, the unit responsible for investigating potential violations of Australian environmental law, was commissioned by Frydenberg's office to attend the meeting with Taylor, but another staff member of the & # 39; unit has gone in its place.

The information just released came through alert questions posed by Greens senator Janet Rice in the Senate survey of wildlife extinctions.

The department has agreed to provide the committee with previously drafted material because "it refers to information that is now publicly known".

Another e-mail, sent on April 22, 2017 by senior environmental manager Stephen Oxley about a month after Taylor's meeting, also reveals that there was only a logging incident in the grasslands of Monaro for agriculture – and this was the case of compliance involving Jam Land.

"Since the ecological community was listed in 2000, the Department understands that this has happened only once for agricultural activities and that it is related to the current compliance survey," he wrote.

In the same e-mail, he goes on to say: "Both NSW and the Commonwealth are pursuing the current compliance case in question because the alleged destruction of high quality native grasslands has triggered both state and national law".


Taylor has repeatedly stated that he requested the briefing due to the impact of the listing on farmers in his Hume electorate. But Oxley's e-mail states that the regulatory impact on farmers was low and that no one else was prosecuted for clearing the prairies.

The sections just provided come from the same e-mail in which the department gave advice to Frydenberg's office if the grassland protections could be watered down and if this change should have been made public.

In response to written questions from the Senate committee, the department reiterates that the compliance issue was not discussed during the March 20, 2017 meeting with Taylor "or in subsequent conversations with the former Minister of Finance." environment and energy, the staff of Hon Josh Frydenberg's deputy ".

Last month's hearing of the Senate Extinctions Survey of Wildlife told Taylor not to declare his business or personal interests in Jam Land at the time of meeting with department officials in March 2017 and that one of the senior officials present did not take notes.

Asic records show that Taylor's interest in Jam Land was recorded in May 2017, after the department meeting. However, the department told the committee that it was aware of the family bond at the time of the meeting.

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