The Department of the Environment and Energy, which Ms Price oversees, was due last December to present Australia’s sixth national report to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
The report would outline the government’s progress on conservation measures and in meeting the objectives of the convention, to which Australia is a party. However, it has not been delivered.
Australia has one of the world’s worst extinction records. The global crisis was highlighted in a shocking United Nations report this month that warned 1 million species on Earth were headed for extinction within decades.
The Morrison government has also failed to deliver an official plan to protect the nation’s animals and plants. A draft version of the plan, Australia‘s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030, was panned last year as a “global embarrassment” for its brevity and lack of specific targets.
Ms Price’s office did not respond to this publication’s questions or interview request.
Environment and climate issues featured prominently in the election campaign and probably contributed to a swing against Liberal MPs in some seats.
Mr Morrison was grilled over the United Nations extinction report and appeared to stumble in his response, referring to government measures that do not exist.
Two days out from the election, Ms Price and Resources Minister Matt Canavan announced an independent audit of energy giant Equinor’s plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, in response to deep concerns in South Australian coastal electorates.
Should Ms Price continue in the environment portfolio, she faces a number of persistent questions, including how Australia will meet its Paris climate targets if the government’s plans to use carryover carbon credits from the Kyoto period are deemed outside the rules.
In a statement, the department said it was working on the report to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and that this involved “an extensive co-ordination and consolidation process”. The department hopes to finalise the report this year.
The separate national biodiversity strategy was being revised and required agreement from state and federal environment ministers, it said.
Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said a wealthy country like Australia “should be meeting its international milestones like submitting national reports on protecting nature”.
She said the separate, pending national plan, if adequate, would “put Australia in a good position to push for a new global deal that would help halt the extinction crisis the world’s scientists say threatens human civilisation”.
Greens environment spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Mr Morrison “must dump Melissa Price from the ministry … The climate and our environment can’t afford another term with Melissa Price as environment minister”.
Nicole Hasham is environment and energy correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.