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14 August 2012 - Protect the laws that protect the places Australians love      

Protect the laws that protect the places Australians love

14 August 2012

As Federal Parliament resumed today, peak environment groups launched a campaign calling on the Prime Minister to abandon a plan to weaken Australia’s system of environmental laws.

The environment groups object to the plan to allow state governments to approve developments that affect the environment without federal oversight. The plan is being driven by demands from the Business Council of Australia (BCA) and state governments to fast track development approvals.

The environment groups today released analysis by Economists at Large that shows the BCA has overstated the effects of federal environment law on business. The analysis found that a paper prepared by the BCA and provided to government had cherry picked figures and made methodological errors that resulted in overstated costs.

The BCA paper also failed to consider the benefits of environmental laws or the potential costs from streamlining them.

“This analysis shows the business lobby has completely exaggerated the effects of national environment law on business projects,” said Australian Conservation Foundation Director of Strategic Ideas Charles Berger.

“Handing approval powers to the states is not about saving businesses time, it’s about making it easier to bulldoze, dredge, clear and mine our coasts, rainforests, bushland and reefs without federal oversight,” Mr Berger said.

Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Pepe Clarke said state governments have a track record of putting short-term gains ahead of national interest when assessing development proposals.

“If state governments had had their way, the Franklin River would be dammed, cattle would be grazing at Alpine National Park and Shoalwater Bay in Queensland would be home to a large coal port.

“Most recently, the Federal Government defended the Great Barrier Reef from the Queensland Government’s shambolic environmental assessment of a massive coal mine,” Mr Clarke said.

CEO of WWF-Australia Dermot O’Gorman said the government’s plan was a step backwards that would wind back environmental protection in Australia by 30 years.

“With the anniversary of the Montara oil spill disaster just around the corner, we have a stark reminder of why we need strong laws to manage environmental risks, and a transparent consultative process that allows all Australians to have a say in protecting the places and wildlife they love,” Mr O’Gorman said.

Humane Society International Director Michael Kennedy said that the delegation of approval powers to state and territory Governments would be a decision generations to come would find hard to forgive. “The proposals to hand state governments the approval powers for important national matters are based on unreliable and incorrect information driven by the business lobby to the exclusion of civil society,” Mr Kennedy said.

CEO of Birdlife Australia, Dr Graeme Hamilton, said Australians would not stand for big business’ influence over government. “This is not just an attack on the environment; it is an attack on democracy. Big business and industry have lobbied behind closed doors to ensure the weakening of our environment laws.

“Today we call on all Australians to contact the Prime Minister and their federal member of parliament to demand protection for the places and wildlife they love,” Dr Hamilton said.

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