Leaking a series of texts, a Liberal MP has accused Gladys Berejiklian of leading a government that made a “disgusting deal” that “condemns NSW koalas to extinction”.
Upper House MP Catherine Cusack took to Twitter on Tuesday night, dropping a series of screenshots revealing what appears to be a conversation between her and the former premier.
They show Ms Berejiklian asking her for a “personal favour” not to cross the floor on a watered-down koala protection bill as it would “undermine the government”.
Alleged to have been sent in 2020, the messages relate to the Liberal Party's amended State Environmental Protection Planning bill (SEPP) which had originally been intended to stop clearing of habitat.
It was introduced after thousands of koalas were killed during the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires, leading the federal government to later declare them endangered.
It would have protected several eucalypt species on private and public land.
The SEPP led to a feud, known as the “koala wars” within the NSW National Party whose then-leader John Barilaro threatened to move to the crossbench over the issue.
“I ask you to reconsider for the sake of government unity,” a text attributed to Ms Berejiklian says.
“Please know you will be jeopardising the koala SEPP Catherine,” another text reads.
Ms Berejiklian, who is now employed by telecommunications giant Optus after resigning last year, declined to comment.
MP reveals why she leaked Berejiklian koala texts
The texts show Ms Cusack accusing the premier of having “messed this up big time” over the bill, calling the situation a “nightmare”.
She later sided with the opposition in scuttling the legislation, sending it to an upper house committee for review instead.
Ms Cusack was subsequently demoted from her Parliamentary Secretary position.
“Sacked by text message,” she later texted to the premier.
Ms Cusack said on Twitter she was posting the messages to prove she “had no knowledge of the disgusting deal (then-environment minister Matt Kean) did with the Nationals".
She said the agreement "virtually condemns NSW koalas to extinction”.
“I grasped it last weekend when (Mr Kean) bragged about his deal with Barilaro,” she wrote, also accusing him of having "traded koalas".
Matt Kean has been contacted for comment.
MP promises to reveal more in parliament
Ms Cusack has promised to reveal more in parliament this evening when Greens MP Cate Faehrmann is scheduled to introduce a Great Koala National Park Bill.
Ms Faehrmann commended Ms Cusack for putting koalas "over the self-interest of the Liberal Party".
“If the Liberals did a dirty deal with the National Party to get the ‘koala wars’ off the front page, a deal which threw koalas under a bus, then the public has the right to know," she told Yahoo News Australia in a statement.
“With koalas on track to become extinct in NSW before 2050 without urgent government action, they need all the help they can get.
"Yet the Liberal and National parties continue to allow wholesale clearing of forest and bushland, home to koalas across the state.
"Make no mistake, the actions the government takes today will determine whether kids in 2050 get to see koalas in the wild.”
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