The Morrison government is trying to walk away from protecting Australia’s environment

Australian Sea Lion (Neophoca cinerea) is one of the species threatened with extinction

Contributed from Queensland

The Morrison government is trying to push through legislation to weaken Australia’s environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Responsibilities for environment protection are being handed over to the states. At a time when the impact of global warming is accerating and Australia’s ecosystems are starting to break down, walking away from a national effort to overcome the threat is a betrayal

Destruction of places like Great Barrier Reef, the Great Australian Bite, tropical and temperate rain forests, other wilderness habitats, will cause the extinction of many species. Imposing such vandalism robs the planet and our quality of life, and it will hurt tourism and other industries that depend on these habitats. Jobs will go and families will go without. This will have an impact on the overall economy.

Protection of the environment cannot just be neatly separated into individual boxes, and can only succeed, when the policy approach concerns the whole environment and it is applied. Anything short of this means a piecemeal reaction to damage that has already occurred. Preventative action is what is needed.

Parceling out the responsibility to  the states and territories weakens the effort. The states must be involved. But this should be as partners to a national approach.

A review of the Act in question by Professor Graeme Samuel found it is “ineffective” and “not fit to address current or future environmental challenges”. He suggested a range of changes that would strengthen the Act.

Some of the areas covered involved reduction of the complexity of the Act and a more complimentary relationship to other laws, strengthening compliance and enforcement, including better planning and restoration requirements, better coordination with states and territories, and more attention to the protection of indigenous culture and heritage.

If these proposals had been taken up, the national capacity to protect Australia’s environment would have been strengthened. They have been ignored and the Morrison government has chosen to in the opposite direction.

That the Act was insufficient in the first place, says a great deal about the ongoing failure to prioritise environmental protection.

Contrasting this failure, a myriad of groups around the country are fighting for this to change. Put them together and you have the makings of a very big movement. Its potential strength is immense.

The Morrison government is on notice.

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