Social Media Claim

Greens and Labor did not sign a ‘Forest Protection Act’ that cut rangers and burn programs

A Facebook post from January 9, 2020 claims Bob Brown “allowed Prime Minister Julia Gillard to form government”.

The Statement

Australia’s brutal bushfire season might be easing but efforts to assign blame for the disaster continue to blaze on social media.

A Facebook post from January 9, 2020 features claims that in 2010, former federal Greens leader Bob Brown “allowed Prime Minister Julia Gillard to form government”. The post continues: “As a result of this the Greens gained the balance of power and signed the Native Forest Protection Act, which defunded National Park Rangers and Control Burn Programs”.

The text appears above a photo of Ms Gillard and Mr Brown each signing a document, with then-treasurer Wayne Swan and Greens MPs Rachel Siewert, Christine Milne, Sarah Hanson-Young and Adam Bandt standing behind them.

The post has been viewed more than 20,000 times and has been shared more than 170 times.

The post used an image of Julia Gillard and Bob Brown signing an agreement that formalised the Greens' support for a minority Labor government.

The Analysis

The first claim in the post is that “in 2010 Bob Brown led the Australian Greens with the ALP, which allowed Prime Minister Julia Gillard to form government.”

In 2010 Labor leader Ms Gillard formed a minority government with the support of three independent MPs - Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor - along with Greens MP Adam Bandt. The minority government came after a closely contested federal election sparked by the removal of Kevin Rudd as prime minister.

The post then goes on to say, “As a result of this the Greens gained the balance of power and signed the Native Forest Protection Act, which defunded National Park Rangers and Control Burn Programs.”

The first part of the claim states the Greens gained the balance of power as a result of forming government with the ALP, however a Parliamentary Library research paper states the party held the balance of power by having nine senators - not by forming a minority government with Labor.

The research paper describes the Greens’ hold on the balance of power at the time as an “influential position” which allowed them to determine the outcome of votes in the Senate whenever the government and opposition were at odds. Minor parties and independents have held the balance of power from 1981-2005 and since 2008.

The second part of the claim states the parties then “signed the Native Forest Protection Act”.

The Federal Register of Legislation, which lists and tracks all Australian Government legislation and related documents, has no record of a Native Forest Protection Act. A search of the lists of acts that are in force, no longer in force or as made also makes no mention of the bill.

Australian parliamentary online archives show that a bill called “Native Forest Protection Bill 1996” was introduced to the Senate in 1996 and was read by Mr Brown in the Senate that year.

An explanatory memorandum tabled with the bill stated the purpose of the proposed law was to provide protection to native forests by prohibiting logging and the exportation of wood chips derived from native forests. But the bill, which was introduced to parliament in 1996, not 2010, did not become law as it was not passed by the parliament. The bill also did not propose cuts to national park rangers or controlled burn programs, which are not the responsibility of the federal government.

The bill’s author, then newly-elected Tasmanian senator and Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, hoped the bill would “extend a mantle of protection over areas that have been identified by experts as having World Heritage values”.

“This Bill aims to secure for the future the wonderful forests of this nation, from the South-West wilderness of Tasmania to the karri forests of Western Australia, and from East Gippsland up through the forests of New South Wales to Queensland,” Mr Brown told the Senate in September 1996.

The photo used in the Facebook post is a September 1, 2010 image of Ms Gillard and Mr Brown signing an agreement that formalised the Greens' support for a minority Labor government. Labor did not secure the support of independents Oakeshott and Windsor, allowing it to form minority government, until September 7.

The agreement was the formal deal that aligned the parties objectives in the lead up to the forming of government in 2010.

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP Factcheck found the Facebook post to be false. The Gillard Labor government did form a minority government with the support of the Greens in 2010 but also with the support of three key independents. The Greens held the balance of power in the upper house through the election of nine senators. The two parties did not “sign the Native Forest Protection Act” but rather an agreement to support a Labor minority government. There is no “Native Forest Protection Act” but rather there was a 1996 Native Forest Protection Bill which did not become law. That failed bill also did not seek to defund national park rangers and controlled burn programs.

  • False - The primary claims of the content are factually inaccurate.

First published February 11, 2020, 12:24 AEDT