Contributed from Victoria
New changes to legislation that weakens Australia’s environment laws have been rammed through parliament, and campaigners are doing everything they can to persuade the Senate to block them.
Amendments to Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act lower the standard, through the removal the central regulatory authority and shifting the responsibility to the states and territories. They will be the ones to make or deny approvals and then monitor compliance.
This has been justified as necessary to protect the economy in its recovery from Covid-19. Both Scott Morrison, and the environment minister, Sussan Ley have put this on the public record.
A green light is to be given to the expansion of the gas, oil and coal industries. It ties in with the fossil fuel recovery that has now become a key plank of economic policy.
Shifting responsibility to the states and territories will give the industry greater scope to use differences between states to their advantage.
It also happens that a statutory review of the existing Act is due to be tabled on by the end of October, and its expected major finding is that the legislation has not been strong enough to prevent the decline in wild habitat and a rise in the extinction of species.
The government has been accused of wanting to nullify the review.
The move is drawing fire from all quarters. This is expected from environment organisations. The Law Council of Australia has weighed in, saying that the move has taken place with indecent haste, and a proper process for consideration has not been allowed.
The Law Councils adds that Australia has obligations under some 33 international treaties and protocols to which it is signatory.
Thanks to the support on One Nation, the government was able to ram this through with a gag on debate.
A large number of organisations have written to UNESCO, the United Nations peak environment heritage body, and asked it to oppose the Australian government’s change to the law.