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Pardoo Beef made big political donations as it sought Kimberley clearing permits

One $30,000 donation to the WA National Party was on the same day in October 2016 the application for clearing was resubmitted, while the Liberal-National government was in power.

One $3000 donation to the WA Labor Party was on June 13, a day after representatives of the company met with the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss long term plans at Pardoo. According to the ACF, this was also a week after the company met with then-new Premier Mark McGowan.

Pivot irrigation is set to become widespread in the Kimberley.

Pivot irrigation is set to become widespread in the Kimberley. Credit:Michele Mossop

The company has also paid Perth Trades Hall, a holding entity for the Labor Party, $27,500 per year since then. This is reportedly the cost of an annual platinum membership to private events in which business leaders can have access to cabinet ministers at private events.

“Political donations help corporations gain greater access to decision-makers and we see this access turn into influence,” ACF democracy campaigner Jolene Elberth said.

“When politicians pay attention to their donors, rather than the community they represent, decisions are made that put corporate profits ahead of the health of people and nature.

“Public disclosure of political donations should be much clearer and faster. We urgently need sensible reforms to shine a light on the money flowing into politics.”

The bilby is listed as a threatened and vulnerable species under WA and Commonwealth legislation.

Environs Kimberley director Martin Pritchard said bilbies’ range had dropped by 80 per cent.

“Unfortunately, governments of all persuasions are allowing the continued destruction of bilby habitat in the Pilbara and Kimberley, driving it further towards extinction,” he said.

“The Eighty Mile Beach Ramsar-listed wetland and the bilby are being sacrificed to land-clearing to grow food for live export cattle and unfortunately state environmental laws are failing to protect these wetlands and threatened species habitat.”

The documents released also show delays to the appeals process due to government officers seeking additional environmental information provoked irate emails from the company, which expressed hope of getting a ministerial decision on the appeals before the Liberal-National government entered caretaker mode.

At a meeting with government officers they “complained about timeframe” and called the appeals “vexatious”.

They said a 500-metre buffer to the wetland originally sought by government officers “kills the project”. In the end, a 150-metre buffer was required.

A Pardoo Beef Corporation spokeswoman said the company categorically denied any links between its donations and its clearing permit.

The permit had received the required approvals as a result of due process having been followed.

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“We have adhered to the department’s required monitoring and risk mitigation requirements concerning the bilby,” she said.

A state government spokeswoman said the clearing permit was approved by the former Department of Environmental Regulation in 2016 under the previous Liberal-National government.

“The department would not have granted the permit had it considered the clearing would pose an unacceptable risk to the greater bilby or the mulgara,” she said.

She pointed out that in upholding the permit, then-environment minister Stephen Dawson had amended it to provide further environmental protections.

“We are currently focused on delivering our election agenda, including donation transparency reform,” she said.

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