Environment law reforms and COAG threaten our unique environment
The national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act, was passed in 1999 by the Howard government. After meetings with business and industry earlier this year the government is now planning to hand over environmental approval powers to the states through COAG (the Council of Australian Governments), thereby weakening our environmental law reforms, and threatening unique Australian ecosystems and species. This would mean project approvals could occur without federal oversight. Unfortunately, the states can’t be trusted to look after the environment. State governments (including our own) have a track record of putting short-term gains ahead of national interest when assessing development proposals.
If it were up to the states, they would have dammed the Franklin River, put oil rigs in the Great Barrier Reef and led Traveston Dam go ahead. Past environment wins, such as the Franklin River are now all up for grabs again. This is why this handover has been called ‘the worst thing to happen to our environment in thirty years’. Even Robert Hill (John Howard’s environment minister) called the handover a huge mistake. The handover is expected to be completed by March 2013.
The Government’s plan would effectively wind back environmental protection in Australia by three decades. In the context of growing threats associated with excessive mining across Australia, including eight new proposed mines on Cape York, and nine open cut mines in Tasmania’s pristine Tarkine forests, robust environmental legislative processes are crucial.
Australia’s environment and biodiversity is in decline. The number of threatened species has nearly tripled in the last twenty years. The State of the Environment Report 2011 made clear that most indicators of environmental health are in decline. Thus stronger laws instead of weakening existing laws are necessary, and a transparent consultative process that allows all Australians to have a say in protecting the places and wildlife they love.
LINKS for further information about the national campaign
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