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26 March 2013 - Time to take handover of environmental powers off the table for good      

Time to take handover of environmental powers off the table for good

26 March 2013


Conservation groups again called on the Federal Government to remove from federal law, once and for all, any possibility of environmental approval powers being handed to states, just as it has with the new “water trigger” under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

While oil and gas companies yesterday claimed $200 billion of developments are being held back, business groups are yet to provide any evidence that handing over powers would result in efficiency or productivity gains.

“Better assessment arrangements can reduce red tape and still protect the places we love,” said Samantha Vine of BirdLife Australia.

“With his poor environmental record Queensland Premier Campbell Newman should not have final approval powers over developments that could damage places like the Daintree, the Great Barrier Reef and other habitats of nationally threatened species.”

“History shows state governments cannot be trusted to assess developments in the national interest,” said Michael Kennedy, Director of Humane Society International.

“Without federal oversight the Great Barrier Reef would be littered with oil rigs, the Franklin River would have been dammed and Fraser Island would be a sand mine.”

“Contrary to the rhetoric of lobby groups like the Business Council and the Minerals Council, approval bilateral agreements would actually increase business uncertainty by creating a patchwork of inconsistent environmental standards and assessment processes,” said Pepe Clarke, chief executive officer of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.

“There is no evidence that giving state government the final say on environmental approvals would result in reduced costs to business if environmental standards are to be maintained.”

“Despite ample opportunity, the business sector has failed to provide any sound evidence that environmental laws are inefficient to begin with,” said Charles Berger of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“Handing over approval powers to states and territories would not improve efficiency, but it most certainly would diminish environmental protection.”

“The Federal Government needs to scratch out the ill-conceived bilateral agreements from Commonwealth law,” said Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders.

“Colin Barnett’s Western Australian Government has already proved state governments can’t uphold their side of any environmental assessment with its flawed approval of the James Price Point gas industrial complex in the Kimberley.”

Recent polling by Lonergan Research found 85 per cent of Australians believe the Federal Government should be able to block or make changes to major projects that could damage the environment. More than 35 organisations are part of the Places You Love alliance, which works for stronger environmental laws.


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