28 November, 2012

10,000 ask Prime Minister to dump controversial reforms to environmental laws

Today an alliance of more than 35 environmental organisations delivered to the Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke more than 10,000 petition signatures against proposals to hand control of national environmental powers to state and territory governments.

The petitioners are opposed to highly controversial reforms agreed by the Council of Australian Governments earlier this year. These changes would hand to the states final Federal Government approval powers for potentially damaging developments. Environment groups are calling for the reforms to be abandoned.

Director of Humane Society International Michael Kennedy said: “These proposed changes represent a hugely significant threat to Australia’s important places and wildlife. Australians are calling on the Federal Government to retain their crucial role to ensure that damaging developments are blocked, and not leave these decisions to the will of state governments.”

The Wilderness Society National Campaign Director Lyndon Schneiders said: “Australians have spoken clearly - they don’t want decisions on protection for their special places, wildlife, and way of life to be handed over to the States. In reaching these important decisions no attempt has been made to consult with a wider group of society, the suggestions for these changes are coming from one place alone, the COAG Business Advisory Forum, and we assume there is no understanding of just how damaging these changes will be.”

Polling released last month indicates that an overwhelming majority of Australians oppose the proposal to hand federal environmental powers to the states. The poll, conducted by Lonergan Research, found that 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.

CEO of the New South Wales Conservation Council Pepe Clarke said: “The Federal Government must not walk away from its environmental responsibilities. If the states had been left to their own devices over the last 30 years, the Franklin River would be dammed, the Great Barrier Reef would be dotted with oil rigs and cattle would be grazing in our alpine national parks.”

Birdlife Australia CEO James O’Connor said: “Our iconic wildlife and environment are under greater pressure than ever before. Our national environmental laws must be made stronger, not weaker, to protect Australia’s unique natural heritage from the impacts of destructive development.”

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Don Henry said: “Australia’s national and state environment groups are all represented here today because we adamantly oppose any handover of national environmental decision-making powers to state governments and urge the Prime Minister’s leadership on this issue.”


Federal environmental laws

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