Luke Hartsuyker.
Luke Hartsuyker.

Gloves are off in battle over bats

TAXPAYERS money has been used to fund a political attack on Page Labor MP Janelle Saffin by Cowper Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker.

The Department of Finance has fielded several inquiries over the matter in which Mr Hartuyker used his postage and printing entitlement to produce and distribute a letter and a flyer (pictured) to constituents in his own electorate and the neighbouring electorate of Page.

The material asks people to sign a petition to support Mr Hartsuyker’s private member’s bill to give the Federal Environment Minister emergency powers to remove the bats. It also attacks Ms Saffin’s stance on the Maclean High School flying fox issue, saying she supported co-existence with the bats.

This was refuted by Ms Saffin’s office as outdated yesterday. A spokesman said Ms Saffin, who had previously supported co-existence, had now laid the groundwork for an application to be made for a licence to disperse the bats.

Ms Saffin said the Maclean High P and C had now called on School Education Director for the Clarence Valley, Ron Phillips, to put forward the application.

“And I understand that is proceeding,” Ms Saffin said.

Mr Hartsuyker’s flyer also blasted Ms Saffin’s consideration of moving the high school.

Ms Saffin defended her statement. “I did not say that the school should be moved as an option for the here and now. I did say it could be looked at long term.”

Ms Saffin said she would not comment on whether Mr Hartsuyker had breached any entitlement regulations at this stage.

“What I will say is that the Member’s use of taxpayer dollars attacking me is a complete waste, particularly when it’s a whole pack of porkies.”

Regarding Mr Hartsuyker’s private member’s bill, Ms Saffin said in a column earlier this week the proposal sought to give the Environment Minister power the Minister already possessed.

“It won’t help, and in any case, the State licence needs to be secured for any action to happen,” she said.

“It seems that the Member for Cowper cannot understand the processes and laws regarding this issue and has sought to use it to attack me, and that I can cop, but it is confusing the students, staff and school community and it does not advance the immediate need to protect their health and safety.”

Although an amendment was made to the Parliamentary Entitlement Regulations which allowed ‘electioneering’ to take place with Federal funds, questions remained about whether Mr Hartsuyker should have declared part of the material with the following statement – as per the regulation: “This material has been produced at Australian Government expense by (insert name of member).”

A spokesman for Mr Hartsukyer responded to The Daily Examiner’s queries with the following statement:

“All material distributed in the correspondence was printed in-house. The material related to a call to support a parliamentary bill on an important issue in the Lower Clarence community. Of course the original letterhead was printed commercially and the words of the letter were overlayed on the letterhead in-house. Letterhead does not require authorisation.”

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