The Abbott Government has introduced a bill to the Lower House today to devolve national protection for water resources from coal seam gas to state governments, adding to its environment attacks inflicted by the budget.
“The Abbott Government is rubbing salt into the wound with this bill to gut critical national water protections coming on top of its environmental disaster of a budget,” Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said
“By working with the rural independents in the last Parliament, the Greens secured national protection for water resources from coal seam gas and large coal mines.
“But the Abbott Government is scrapping this to please its big mining buddies and to leave farming communities to suffer the consequences of water contamination and depletion.
“The government’s bill will let Minister Hunt give state and territory governments the final say over whether coal seam gas and large coal mines should go ahead, without any federal checks of water impacts.
“But the bill doesn’t stop there – it further clears the way for all federal environmental approval powers to end up in the hands of state governments, winding back national environment protection by more than 30 years.
“This means state governments will have full responsibility to approve or refuse environmentally destructive projects that impact our World Heritage Areas and nationally endangered species.
"If states had this power in the past, the Franklin River would be dammed and there would be oil rigs on the Great Barrier Reef.
“The Greens will stand firm against Tony Abbott’s attempt to completely dissolve national environment protection.
“Tony Abbott has used the budget to attack the environment further, with the Biodiversity Fund and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency being scrapped.
“The budget also cuts $2 million from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, even though this World Heritage Area is under more pressure than ever before, thanks to the onslaught of mega ports being approved by the Abbott Government.
“Hundreds of staff are being cut from the Environment Department, leaving it with even less capacity to monitor the rash of Reef industrialisation and the frenzy of coal and gas approvals.
“The staff cuts, including to the department’s compliance section, come despite Minister Hunt’s own independent inquiry into the Gladstone Harbour environmental disaster finding monitoring and compliance was completely inadequate.
“The Abbott Government sees the environment as simply something in the way of what lies underground for its mining mates,” Senator Waters said.