It’s stinger season, but not as we know it. In a stinging attack, the Environmental Defenders Office of Northern Queensland today criticised the Queensland Government for its unrelenting program of amendments to a raft of integrated environmental legislation, weakening legislation hard-won over the past two decades.
Fergus Power, Principal Solicitor for the Environmental Defenders Office of Northern Queensland (EDO NQ), today expressed deep concern about the actions of the Queensland State Government in relaxing multiple pieces of environmental management legislation and subordinate regulations.
“In mid-2012, in an unprecedented move, Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie cancelled 100% of State funding to EDO NQ (including funding from the accumulated interest earned on solicitor’s trust accounts, which is not even government money and shouldn’t be allocated solely in accordance with government whim)," Mr Power said. "These funds had previously been made available to help the community participate in environmental legal action to redress unlawful or inappropriate government or industrial proposals and actions.
“The funding cut forced a massive reduction in our staffing. But, since our loss of funds, the State government’s moves to amend environmental legislation (invariably weakening protective legislation) have been relentless. The loss of resources combined with the increased workload means that the interests of stakeholders concerned about environmental protection may not be adequately presented or considered, often resulting in poor environmental law. Fast law is often bad law.
“In practice, a new request for comment is issued by the State government or proponents of major mining/industrial developments every few days. Many stakeholders have been forced to pick and choose which issues to respond to, leading to the presumption that, if an environmental body did not comment on any given proposed legislative change/project, then it was satisfied with that change. It is an unfair process involving greatly mismatched resources between the community and the government and developers.”
Mark Buttrose, President of EDO NQ said: “The community seems unaware of how brazenly the Queensland Government is ‘winding back the clock’ - erasing hard-won advances made over the past two decades. It shows not only an abandonment of the State’s duty of co-stewardship with the Commonwealth, but also an interference with access to justice – crippling the ability of citizens to protect the environment, including World Heritage Areas like the Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics and Riversleigh Fossil Site”, he said.
“It makes no sense to weaken environmental protections given that so much sustainable, long-term benefit comes to the community (both financially and in terms of quality of life) when such superb assets are properly managed and protected. EDO NQ will shortly be inviting Andrew Powell, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Protection, to intervene and return funding to the two EDOs in Queensland so that the community can have meaningful input into State legislative reform, and can challenge unlawful acts of industry and Government agencies at all levels."
Environmental Defenders Office of Northern Queensland (EDO NQ)
The Environmental Defenders Office of Northern Queensland (EDO NQ) is part of the Australian Network of Environmental Defenders Offices Inc (ANEDO), which consists of nine independently constituted and managed community environmental law centres located in each State and Territory of Australia. Each EDO is dedicated to protecting the environment in the public interest. We provide legal representation and advice, take an active role in environmental law reform and policy formulation, and offer a significant education program designed to facilitate public participation in environmental decision making. EDO NQ services well over 1,000,000 square km of onshore and offshore Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics.
P: +61 7 4031 4766
M: +61 4 389 26401