Right now the Australian Senate is debating the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) Amendment Bill in parliament — the Abbott Government's attempt to wind back environment laws and hand over its powers of approval and enforcement to states.
The government is trying to implement the agenda of the big business and mining lobby who want to mine more, dredge deeper, and frack faster, with less oversight.
State governments are not resourced to enforce national laws. Their laws and regulations do not meet the standards required in the EPBC. They can’t be trusted to protect our air, our water and our the places we love with mining royalties on the table.
Within months, if these handovers proceed, Australia’s special places could be exposed to an unprecedented level of threat.
Over the last sixteen months, you sent thousands of emails to Environment Ministers, made hundreds of calls to influential MPs, and signed on to our petition in your tens of thousands. You’ve spoken out to the former Labor government, the current Liberal government, and the crossbench Senators.
Yesterday community leaders from all over Australia walked into Parliament House with real people from real places who are at threat from the government’s plans.
In a series of meetings, they gave Senators six good reasons not to weaken environment laws:
1. Dennis Vice, a Coonawarra winegrower doesn’t want invasive gas mining in threatening local aquifers
2. Tony Brown, a Whitsunday tourism operator and Tony Fontes, a Great Barrier dive instructor, don’t want their community’s livelihood trashed along with the World Heritage values of the Reef.
3. Dr Anne Poelina, a Nyikina Traditional Custodian doesn’t want a dirty coal mine in a pristine Kimberley river floodplain to destroy her people’s Mardoowarra, or living water.
4. Tracey Anton, a Gippsland health worker doesn’t want her community exposed to health impacts from coal seam gas – or more accidents like the 45-day Hazelwood coal mine fire that left her elderly clients distressed and needing oxygen.
5. Phil Laird, whose family farmed Maules Creek for six generations, and National Coordinator of Lock the Gate alliance, doesn’t want a new coal mine will sucking three billion litres of water per year from his local river.
6. Peter Watts, an Arabunna man, doesn’t want an ill-equipped state government deciding to expand the Olympic Dam uranium mine on his traditional lands.
And your voices will be heard.
It is far from perfect, but the EPBC Act is Australia’s key environment protection law. It needs to be strengthened not weakened. We need a new generation of environment laws.
Stay tuned and will let you know as soon as the vote goes through.