The Auditor General’s report on environmental protection shows the federal environment department is under-resourced and failing to enforce environmental conditions.
“The Abbott Government constantly approves environmentally destructive projects claiming that all of the damage will be offset by environmental conditions, but the report shows those conditions often aren’t enforced,” Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said.
“The report shows the Environment Department doesn’t have enough staff to enforce conditions and yet the Abbott Government’s budget cuts hundreds of staff from the Environment Department, including 129 from the division responsible for enforcement.
“This is an incredibly alarming prospect for our nationally significant environmental treasures, such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Kimberley and Cape York, which are all under threat from mining projects.
“Many projects, including the Abbot Point coal port expansion in the Great Barrier Reef, have been approved with conditions requiring the proponent to provide a management plan on how they will manage environmental risks.
“The report shows that the department could only provide evidence that it had checked the about 60 per cent of management plans.
“This means proponents often get their approval with requirements to provide details in later plans as to how they will manage environmental damage, but then those plans aren’t properly scrutinised which could be leading to significant environmental damage.
“The report finds most compliance monitoring is done by phone or email, so big mining companies are being trusted to provide accurate information, without on-site inspections.
“The big mining companies are getting away with flouting environmental conditions, without the departmental capacity or political will to stop them,” Senator Waters said.