protect the laws that protect the places you love
Campaign update – July 2013
Over the past twelve months HSI and the Places You Love alliance have been working to ensure that environmental approval powers are not handed over to State and Territory Governments.
We are pleased to announce that the Federal Government has just announced that they will not hand over these powers to State and Territory Governments.
This is fantastic news, but the fight is not yet over. With an impending Federal election, the Coalition has released a policy which promises to set up a 'one-stop-shop' for environmental approvals to be based in the States and Territories.This is despite the fact there is no evidence that federal environmental laws are causing the delays in approvals of projects that big business are claiming, and the lack of assessment of the implications of handing over these powers.
Please help us by taking action today to let the politicians know you want them to protect the laws that protect the places and wildlife we all love!
Campaign update – December 2012:
The Gillard Government has put the brakes on plans to hand its environmental approval powers to the states. The Business Council of Australia and many state governments are not taking this decision lying down. They are still pushing the Prime Minister to gut our environment protection laws, threatening our special places and wildlife with development, mining and other destruction. We will therefore be continuing our campaign and you can look forward to hearing more news of action you can take in 2013.
On 13th April 2012 the Council of Australian Government's (COAG) released a plan to implement damaging changes to federal and state environmental laws in the name of reducing 'green tape'. This presents a grave threat to hard won environmental protections, as the negotiation of Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999bilateral approval agreements between federal and state governments will be fast-tracked, transferring important approval functions to the states by March 2013. Meanwhile, parallel changes are being made to state laws, including amendments aimed at accelerating the approval of major development projects. To add to the threats a package of damaging legislative amendments to the EPBC Act is due to be introduced to federal Parliament this spring.
The Places You Love campaign was founded by a group of 30 organisations, including HSI concerned with the proposals to wind back our system of environmental laws. We strongly believe that the reforms proposed will set us back decades on hard won protection for our land, water and wildlife.
We established the campaign to motivate and inspire the Australian community to let the Federal and State Governments know that people care about environmental laws, and that the environment movement will not stand for these changes - we intend to fight the proposed reforms.
The things we love – our most iconic reefs, forests, wetlands and wildlife – deserve to be protected from developments that will destroy them.
However, under pressure from big business Federal, State and Territory governments are moving forward with an aggressive plan to wind back our environmental protection laws. By cutting 'green tape', handing important federal approval powers to the states, and fast tracking approvals for large development, federal protection for our most special places and wildlife will be removed, and mining and other destructive development in our forests, woodlands and along our coasts will be accelerated.
History has shown us that the Federal government has a critical role in protecting matters of national environmental significance. Short-sighted development proposals have threatened Australia's natural heritage several times in the past and the Federal government has stepped in to prevent irreversible harm. Without Federal intervention, the Franklin River would be dammed, there would be oil rigs on the Great Barrier Reef and pristine Shoalwater Bay would be home to a large coal port.
The most recent national State of the Environment report shows the country is going backwards in biodiversity conversation, climate change impacts, the health of our watersheds and the protection of our public forests and woodlands. Given the declining state of our environment. Now more than ever we need the federal government to uphold and strengthen environmental laws to safeguard Australia's natural heritage for future generations.
This is a critical moment in time. It is essential that the Prime Minister hears community support for the laws that protect the places we love. Please take action now to write to the Prime Minister and to let her know that the environmental protections that we enjoy today were hard won, and will not be surrendered lightly.
For more information and to take action visit www.placesyoulove.org
Reform of Australia's National Environmental Law
On August 24th 2011 the Government announced their plans to amend Australia's national environment law – the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, 1999.
HSI hailed the original EPBC Act after we helped negotiate its passage through Parliament in 1999. It was ground breaking as for the first time it placed the Federal Environment Minister as the central decision maker for actions that impact the environment. HSI has used the legislation thoroughly ever since, making the most of its clauses to protect Australia's wildlife and threatened species. We have even used the Act to bring people to account in the Courts, including the Japanese whalers and federal Environment Ministers when we have disagreed with their decisions.
There are some positive initiatives for the environment in the Government's proposals. Notably plans to improve the identification of critical habitats, to give greater protection for vulnerable ecological communities and to give new protections for "ecosystems of national importance". But much more is needed to properly equip the legislation to deal with the environmental challenges facing Australia's biodiversity. It was disappointing not to see more being done for critical habitats – for it they aren't properly protected, biodiversity conservation becomes a lost cause.
Unfortunately, the positives promised come amongst a number of proposals HSI considers dangerous – such as plans to devolve responsibilities for decision making back to State and Territory Governments and a suggestion to let go of the Environment Minister's leverage over the ecological sustainability of fisheries. We are also wary of intentions to loosen 'red tape' and 'streamline' and will be anxious to see strict safeguards put in place to make sure that threatened species do not suffer as a result.
For further HSI analysis on the EPBC reform see our Opinion piece published by ABC Environment Online
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