Business and PM meet in private to gut environment protection
As the Prime Minister and big business hold a private forum today (Thursday, December 6) to discuss changes to Australia’s environment law, environment groups have published advertisements in major newspapers opposing the damaging changes.
World Wildlife Fund Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said the changes would hand federal approval powers for developments that could affect the environment to state governments.
“History tells us that without Federal Government intervention, state governments would have allowed the Great Barrier Reef to be dotted with oil rigs, cattle to trample alpine national parks, and the Franklin River to be dammed,” Mr O’Gorman said.
Australian Conservation Foundation Director of Strategic Ideas Charles Berger said the Business Advisory Forum meeting with the Prime Minister today would feed directly into tomorrow’s COAG meeting.
“Although the meeting is closed door, you can bet big business will be pushing these changes, which would make it easier for developers and miners to irreparably damage reefs, wetlands and heritage areas by taking away the national layer of scrutiny and review. The vigorous business lobbying today will likely be on the Prime Minister’s mind at the COAG meeting tomorrow, where state governments are expected to further push the changes,” Mr Berger said.
The Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders said if big business and state governments succeeded in pushing the changes through, Australians would not stand by and let the places and wildlife they love be destroyed.
“Big businesses should be under no illusion – although the changes might make it easier for state governments to tick off on reckless development proposals, we will not allow them to ignore affected communities and passionate Australians who care about the environment. Weak environment laws will mean more protests and legal battles,” Mr Schneiders said.
Humane Society International Director Michael Kennedy said: “Sir David Attenborough and influential conservation scientists from all over the world are publicly opposed to these damaging changes and leaders of Australia’s scientific, legal and business communities have signed an open letter calling on the Prime Minister not to hand approval powers to the states.
Signatories to the letter include former Federal Court Judge Murray Wilcox; Chairman of Paddy Pallin, Robert Pallin and Professor David Lindenmayer of the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University.
Birdlife Australia CEO James O’Connor said: “Thirty five environment groups have joined together to oppose these changes, more than 10 000 people have signed our petition and polling shows 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.”
NSW Nature Conservation Council CEO Pepe Clarke said, given recent actions by state governments, now more than ever Australians needed strong environment laws.
“Transferring approval powers to the states could not come at a worse time in New South Wales. The O’Farrell Government has been winding back environmental protections ever since it came to power and is now overhauling planning laws to help fast-track development,” Mr Clarke said.