Environmental Laws Under Threat on World Environment Day
Environmental groups from across the country today challenged an unprecedented attack on Australia’s environmental laws in a united front on World Environment Day.
“Environmental laws safeguard our way of life. They protect our land and wildlife, and ensure that our air and water are not polluted by destructive development,” Humane Society International Director Michael Kennedy said.
“But big business has convinced the federal government to wind back environmental protection by allowing state governments to have the final say on more development proposals. This is quite simply unacceptable.” said Mr Kennedy.
“This state-based approach won’t work. Nationally significant environmental assets must be protected at a national level. We know from long experience that state governments do not assess development proposals with the national interest in mind.” Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Pepe Clarke said.
"This week the Australian government was put on notice that they need to lift their game if the Great Barrier Reef is to avoid being listed as 'in danger.’ We need the Commonwealth to increase protection for Australia’s unique natural places, not leave these decisions solely up to the states” Mr Clarke said.
Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Don Henry said handing federal approval powers to the states would set environmental protection back by decades.
“Time and time again, federal governments have had to step in to save our national icons from short-sighted state ambition. That’s why the Great Barrier Reef isn’t scarred with oil rigs, the Franklin River is still flowing freely in Tasmania and Victoria’s Alpine National Park isn’t being trampled by cattle,” Mr Henry said.
BirdLife Australia CEO Graeme Hamilton said Australians would not stand for big business influence over government, nor for weak Commonwealth responses to the protection of their environment.
“This is not just an attack on the environment; it is an attack on democracy. Big business and industry have successfully lobbied behind closed doors to ensure the weakening of our environment laws.” Dr Hamilton said.
“A healthy environment is essential to the Australian way of life. We need stronger environmental laws, not weaker ones.” Dr Hamilton said. “Today we call on all Australians that value clean air, clean water and wild places to contact their federal member of parliament to demand protection for our environmental laws.”
Twenty leading environmental groups today released a joint communiqué to oppose the proposed changes to environmental laws and to challenge the advice given to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) by the recently formed Business Advisory Forum.
The Communiqué: Environment groups from across Australia held a National Summit on the threats to environmental laws on the 17th of May and developed a joint communiqué, which they have released today, to challenge recent attacks on Federal and State environmental protection measures.
World Environment Day is celebrated on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere. It is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. World Environment Day celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become the one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.
Law reform: The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) is the Australian Government’s primary piece of national environmental legislation. An independent review (The Hawke Review) of the EPBC Act proposed a reform package to streamline development balanced by better environmental provisions and increased transparency, oversight and public participation. The Government has rejected most of these “balancing” reforms, thereby ignoring the relevant checks involved and placing the environment at greater risk than it is under the present Act.
COAG: We feel that establishment of the COAG Business Advisory Forum is an unprecedented and inappropriate form of privileged access for the business sector. We call on the Prime Minister, as the Chair of COAG, to rectify this inequity immediately by establishing a parallel COAG forum for key representatives of civil society.
Green Tape: We reject the notion that the problem we face is duplication and red/green tape. The problem we face is the highest mammal extinction rate in the world, the worst per capita rate of carbon emissions in the world, contaminated rivers and water, clearing of forests and bush, declining soils, overfishing and a host of bad decisions made every day all over Australia that benefit the few. Every 5 years the Federal Government produces a national State of the Environment Report. Every report says we are going backwards. Our environmental laws need strengthening and increased funding to combat these threats, not gutting.