Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Shooting the Environment Messenger

If there was a narrative about the Liberal Government it is one of payback and punishment, in this case, of environmental groups who dare to have the temerity to challenge projects, as environmental groups should when environmental damage is foreseeable

The announcement yesterday of proposed changes to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to repeal a section of the Act that allows green groups to mount legal challenges to environmental approvals is all about the government not accepting the umpire’s decision. This is following the Federal Court forcing the Government to reconsider its approval of Adani's $16 billion Carmichael coal mine because Environment Minister Greg Hunt had not properly considered the impacts on the yakka skink and ornamental snake.

The Mackay Conservation Group launched its legal challenge in the Federal Court in January, alleging that greenhouse gas emissions from the mine, vulnerable species and Adani's environmental track record had not been taken into account. "The Minister conceded that he had made an error and Adani did as well that the proper process hadn't been followed in approving the Carmichael mine. He is required to take advice from his department on threatened species into account and he didn't do that,” Mackay Conservation Group coordinator Ellen Roberts said.

Rather than seeing a failure in the Minister’s lack of due diligence, the Government has decided to shoot the messenger.

The Government's claims the EPBC Act is costing jobs is not borne out by the facts. Since being passed by the Howard Government 15 years ago, the EPBC Act has been the overriding national environmental protection law, including throughout the mining boom – and environmental groups are required to operate within this law.

Very few projects are legally challenged, and hardly any have been stopped. Adani has not been stopped, it has simply been required to comply with the law, as it should be.
Labor will not support weakening environmental protections or limiting a community's right to challenge Government decisions.

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