The Australian government has set a dangerous precedent in granting exemptions “in the national interest” from its 1999 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. This laxity adversely affects threatened species and disregards scientific advice.
Australia's former environment minister Greg Hunt granted the latest exemption. It permits habitat clearance in Batemans Bay, New South Wales, until the end of this year and dispersal by “non-lethal means” of camps of the threatened grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus). This species is crucial for native forest regeneration. Forced dispersals using loud noise, smoke and lights “often lead to flying fox stress, injuries, or fatalities” (see go.nature.com/2f9azyl) and have proved costly and inefficient (see B. J. Roberts et al. PLoS ONE 7, e42532; 2012).
Hunt also signed an exemption in 2014 to permit a shark cull in Western Australia (see go.nature.com/2f4mrdy), which included the protected great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias). Then there is the ongoing destruction of endangered forests in New South Wales, habitats for many threatened species.
In our view, Australia's federal and state governments should be more protective of biodiversity.