|Member of the New South Wales Parliament
26 March 2011 – 6 March 2015
|Preceded by||Frank Terenzini|
|Succeeded by||Jenny Aitchison|
|Minister for the Environment|
3 April 2011 – 23 April 2014
|Preceded by||Frank Sartor|
|Succeeded by||Rob Stokes|
|Minister for Heritage|
3 April 2011 – 23 April 2014
|Preceded by||Tony Kelly|
|Succeeded by||Rob Stokes|
|Member of Legislative Council of New South Wales|
22 March 2003 – 4 March 2011
|Born||3 August 1958|
|Political party||Liberal Party of Australia|
|Occupation||Teacher and childcare worker|
Robyn Mary Parker (born 3 August 1958), is a former Australian politician, was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Maitland for the Liberal Party from 2011 to 2015 and was previously a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales between 2003 and 2011. Parker was the New South Wales Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Heritage in the O'Farrell government from 2011 until she was sacked from the ministry by new Premier Mike Baird in 2014.
Early years and background
Parker was born to parents, Adeline and Campbell McEwen. Her family has its origins in the dairy farming district of Taranaki, New Zealand. She studied at the Palmerston North Teacher's College at Massey University, New Zealand and obtained a Diploma of Teaching. She subsequently worked as a development officer with a focus on Children's Services for the City of Sunshine between 1979 and 1980; a Family Day Care Co-ordinator for the City of Oakleigh between 1981 and 1982, and for Queensland Centacare between 1982 and 1983. After moving to Maitland in the mid-1980s, she was the Co-ordinator of a mobile resource service between 1984 and 1995 and she also taught child studies for TAFE between 1985 and 1992. At Maitland she developed one of the first mobile community outreach programs for that city.
Her interest in politics became evident in 1999, when she became a political advisor to Senator John Tierney but left in November 2001 to become a manager at a skin cancer centre in Lake Macquarie. At the clinic she developed and implemented a program to encourage women to take leadership positions within politics, particularly the Liberal party.
Parker was the Vice-President of the Liberal Party of New South Wales in 1997–2000, and was the president of the NSW Women's Council in 2000–2003. As head of the Liberal Women's Forum, she supported the training and mentoring of women in all levels of Government and initiated the Pathways to Political Leadership Programme.
As Minister for the Environment, Parker has sought to increase penalties for pollution and develop an independent Environment Protection Authority. She pursued a science-based approach to recovery of threatened species and secured additional funding for these programs.
During Parker's ministry, the EPA also introduced an energy and waste policy aimed at business recycling across NSW, and programs to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. In three years as heritage minister Parker delivered a record number of Maitland buildings to the state heritage register including Maitland's Jewish Cemetery.
During her time as Minister for the Environment, Parker also oversaw the creation of the most comprehensive air quality network in Australia Securing the International World Parks Congress for Sydney in November 2014, greater support for Taronga Zoo's conservation program, the introduction of legislation banning solaria, making NSW the second in the world to do so (a lead other states have followed) and provided increased funding for community, local government, not for profit and aboriginal heritage projects throughout New South Wales.
Parker and the Environment Protection Authority received a lot of criticism following a hexavlent chromium emission at Orica's ammonium nitrate plant in Newcastle in August 2011;. Parker refused to apologise for why there was a delay in informing the public of the spill claiming she was left off of a crucial departmental email. The Sydney Morning Herald reported " It was also reported that there was a pattern going back more than a decade with 32 documented serious pollution incidents in New South Wales since 1999 in which companies failed to notify authorities within 24 hours. Ms Parker has been criticised for not notifying the public about the incident until Thursday afternoon, three days later, despite being informed on Wednesday evening." The Parliamentary report showed that Parker was notified about the incident by the Office of Environment and Heritage on 10 August 2011 at 4.23pm. In the morning of 11 August 2011, the Premier's Chief of Staff was notified by Parker's office and Parker informed the parliament at 3:30pm. It was reported that Parker received media training from journalist John Mangos to handle the crisis. The head of Orica claimed he tried to contact Parker about the spill three times with no success. Parker responded "The time for Orica to contact the Government and environmental authorities was as soon as the Kooragang Island leak occurred – not seven days later". In November 2011, NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson called on the Premier to sack Parker saying "the job of a minister is to take responsibility for protecting the community and from day one, Ms Parker has clearly failed to live up to that standard". An upper house inquiry into the Orica incident was released in February 2012, the inquiry's report stated "The delay by the Minister for the Environment in informing the public regarding the leak, whether by press statement, ministerial statement or other means, was unacceptable" The inquiry also stated "in this instance Minister Parker's actions led to a great deal of political debate ultimately increasing public concern and confusion about the leak."
Immediately after the Orica incident the Government held an independent inquiry with an independent chairperson. Brendan O'Reilly, the former director general of the NSW Premier's department. Mr O'Reilly's report stated that "The public were exposed to the media reporting of the political debate with claims and counter claims being made. This resulted in increased concerns and confusion in the minds of the public."
On 11 October 2011, Parker introduced the Protection of the Environment Legislation Amendment Bill into the Parliament aimed at strengthening the ability of the Environment Protection Authority to regulate serious pollution incidents by significantly improving notification requirements and pollution incident response management provisions and increase penalties for non-compliance. The Bill was passed on 13 October 2011.
In a budget estimates hearing in 2011, Parker stated "logging protects koalas." Opposition environment spokesperson Luke Foley said that Parker had broken her government's promise of protecting koalas. Foley also said "Robyn Parker is allowing a national icon to be endangered thanks to her 'unsound ecological approach' "
In one of her last acts as Minister for Environment, Parker launched a master plan for Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. The plan was seen as controversial  and criticised by the opposition and former Australian of the Year Ian Kiernan as commercialisation of the gardens. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating also criticised the plan saying ""While the government is spending a lot of money on a cultured headland park at Barangaroo to the west, the same government, with the authority of environment minister Robyn Parker, is spending money to destroy the gardens to the east".
In a cabinet reshuffle in 2014, new Premier Mike Baird sacked Parker and replaced with Rob Stokes as the new Minister for the Environment. Despite being endorsed as the candidate for the seat of Maitland, Parker announced her retirement from Parliament and did not contest the election held in March 2015.
Parker was first touted as a Liberal candidate in 2000 However, she had to wait until 2002 to be pre-selected for the fifth position on the Liberal ticket, and was the seventh person elected on the combined Liberal/National ticket.
In 2004 she spoke on the debate of the Criminal Procedure Amendment Sexual Offences Bill in the New South Wales Parliament. She supported the introduction of closed circuit television for victims to give their evidence in court as she had been a victim when she was nineteen in New Zealand. In the debate she pointed out the different standards that apply to rape victims compared to other victims of crime. She said that if "an assailant held you at knifepoint, asked you for your wallet and you complied, there is no question that a crime was committed. You would not be asked if you consented. You would not be asked if you had tried to resist. Only survivors of sexual assault are asked these questions."
On 19 February 2010, Parker was pre-selected by the Liberal Party to contest the semi-marginal Lower House seat of Maitland. At the 2011 election, Parker was elected with a swing of 20.3 per cent and won the seat with 56.3 per cent of the two-party vote. Her main competitor was the incumbent sitting member, Labor's Frank Terenzini.
Parker told parliament in 2004 that she had been raped as a teenager and nailed her bedroom windows shut in the aftermath. In 2009 it was revealed that her eldest son, Dylan, then aged 22, made and flew paper planes and had become one of the world's best, while simultaneously dealing with the sudden discovery of a brain tumour. His story was broadcast in an episode of the ABC TV program Australian Story.
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- "Kooragang Island Orica chemical leak" (PDF). Select Committee on the Kooragang Island Orica Chemical Leak (PDF). Sydney: Legislative Council of New South Wales. 23 February 2012. p. 180. ISBN 978-1-921286-81-0. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
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- O'Reilly, Brendan (September 2013). [link http://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/131160/A_review_into_the_response_to_the_serious_pollution_incident_at_Orica_Australia_Pty._Ltd._ammonium_nitrate_plant_at_Walsh_Point,_Kooragang_Island_on_August_8,_2011.pdf "A review into the response to the serious pollution incident at Orica Australia Pty. Ltd. ammonium nitrate plant at Walsh Point, Kooragang Island on August 8, 2011"] Check
|url=value (help) (PDF).
- Foschia, Liz (27 October 2011). "Minister declares logging protects koalas". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
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- Tucker, Scott (26 February 2003). "Libs cop flak over choice". The Newcastle Herald.
- Needham, Kirsty (6 July 2014). "Sexist slur made by Nationals MP John Williams against female cabinet minister Robyn Parker". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2014-07-06.
- Fanning, Mick (31 August 2009). "Fly With Me" (transcript). Australian Story. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
|Parliament of New South Wales|
|Member for Maitland
|Minister for the Environment
|Minister for Heritage