THE state’s Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, was labelled a ‘‘threatened species’’ after repeatedly stumbling and giving unclear answers under aggressive questioning at a budget estimates hearing yesterday.
Ms Parker, the Member for Maitland, who already came under fire in August over her handling of the carcinogenic chemical leak at Stockton, appeared to claim logging ‘‘protects koalas’’ during a heated exchange with the opposition.
She later accused Labor of ‘‘badgering’’ her, and said she phrased her answer incorrectly.
The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, did not comment yesterday on calls for her resignation.
The hearing was heated from the beginning and the chairman, Shooters Party MP Robert Brown, repeatedly reprimanded Labor’s environment spokesman, Luke Foley, for interrupting Ms Parker.
In one exchange, Mr Foley asked why logging had recently been approved in the Boambee State Forest near Coffs Harbour, a significant habitat for koalas, a threatened species.
‘‘You’ve now signed off on logging of the Boambee State Forest, Minister, haven’t you?’’ he said.
‘‘You might not understand how forestry agreements work,’’ she responded.
‘‘It seems as though you don’t, because they are agreed, we regulate and that, that logging protects, protects koalas.’’
‘‘How does logging protect koalas? It destroys their habitat!’’ Mr Foley interrupted.
The Greens MP, Cate Faehrmann, said it was clear the state did not have the strong Environment Minister that it needed and called her a ‘‘threatened species’’.
‘‘She constantly referred to her notes, she didn’t seem to understand the most basic of environmental legislation ... ’’ she said.
Later, Ms Parker clarified her comments on radio. ‘‘Logging doesn’t help koalas,’’ she said.
‘‘I was interrupted continuously so I’ve missed a couple of words out in one sentence in three and half hours.’’