Former energy minister Angus Taylor and his brother Richard operated a company called Jam Land that was found to have illegally removed vulnerable grasslands. This decision was upheld on appeal.
It had been ordered by a federal court that the business restore grasslands totaling 103 hectares (254 acres) on a property near Corrowong, New South Wales.
Justice Michael Lee issued a ruling on the matter on Tuesday afternoon, dismissing Jam Land’s petition for judicial review and ordering the company to cover the government’s legal fees. Jam Land is co-owned by the brother of the opposition’s treasury spokesman, Richard Taylor, who is also a director. Following a ministerial review that upheld an earlier judgment that Jam Land had illegally cut up to 28.5 hectares (71 acres) of native temperate grasslands on a property in Corrowong in southern NSW and ordered the company to rehabilitate, Jam Land filed an appeal in December.
Jam Land hoped to have the grasslands’ designation as critically endangered overturned because they are part of Australia’s natural temperate grassland of the south-eastern highlands, which is one of the country’s most imperiled ecosystems.
Money from farmers will help the Angus Taylor company appeal a ruling that it improperly removed land. The business further claimed the order was unjustified since investigators had relied on a “conservation advisory” rather than the listing instrument.
Last but not least, Jam Land claimed the government lacked “necessary specificity” in outlining what must be done to restore harm or lessen its impact. Judgment was rendered dismissing Jam Land’s case for all three of the aforementioned reasons. Angus Taylor sought talks with senior environment authorities and the office of the then-environment minister Josh Frydenberg regarding the grasslands while the Jam Land probe was ongoing, which has caused controversy.
Freedom of information documents obtained by Guardian Australia in 2019 shows that Frydenberg’s office later sought legal counsel over whether rules safeguarding the grasslands might be amended. Ongoing freedom of information litigation is seeking additional material requested by Guardian Australia.
Angus Taylor has indicated on multiple occasions that he sought the meetings with department officials on behalf of Hume residents who were worried about the grasslands listing. According to his prior statements, “I did not make any representations to federal or state authorities in connection to any compliance activity being done.”
The agency has already stated that officials did not talk to Taylor about the compliance issue. Jam Land was ordered to restore 103 hectares (254 acres) of grasslands in a different portion of the property in 2020, three and a half years after they sprayed pesticide on the site. The business asked for a government review of the decision. The initial findings and the remedial order were upheld in December by a delegate for ex-environment minister Sussan Ley.
As a response, Jam Land filed an appeal with the federal court, which Richard Taylor called a “matter of principle” at the time. Jam Land’s case received funding from the Australian Farmers’ Fighting Fund, an organization set up by the National Farmers’ Federation to assist farmers in pursuing high-stakes legal battles.
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The case “was a clear indication of the vagueness and uncertainty in the act, and how the government’s attitude to its implementation might have significant repercussions for farmers,” Hugh Nivison, the fund’s chair, said at the time. Almost six years have passed since herbicides were used to eradicate the grasses on the Jam Land site, and Tuesday’s verdict came as a result.
We reached out to Jam Land and the federal government for comment. Attorney Peter Briggs for Jam Land said it was improper to comment while the case was pending. In order to decide whether or not to appeal to the full federal court, Jam Land has 28 days to do so.
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