A senate committee has today failed to recommend backing a Greens bill to save our national environment laws from being handed over to the states, say the Australian Greens.

“If the government has truly ditched its idea to hand over national environmental protection to state governments, it needs to stop an Abbott government from using those same powers,” Senator Larissa Waters, the Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said.

“The opposition has said it will hand off environmental powers to the states and today the Labor-dominated senate committee has confirmed it won’t lift a finger to stop Abbott handing off responsibility for national icons to his state cronies.

“Throughout the inquiry, lawyers, scientists, sustainable businesses and environment experts all expressed grave concerns about the severe consequences of handing federal environmental approval powers to state governments.

“The committee itself echoed these concerns in its final report, stating it is ‘not appropriate for the states and territories to exercise decision making powers for approvals in relation to matters on national environmental significance’.

“But sadly, politics and the influence of big business and mining magnates have got in the way of recommendations to support the bill, which would save our country’s most iconic species and landscapes from the ongoing threat of national environment protection being taken away by the government of the day.

“In an obvious attempt to distract the community from the way it has again been overlooked to accommodate the demands of big business, the senate committee has recommended that an independent National Environment Commission be established.

“This is welcome news but it’s such a shame that it is being rolled out to soften the blow that the committee has not done anything to stop national environment protection from being disbanded at the whim of the current government and successive governments.

“In the past, federal governments have stepped in to stop mining on the Great Barrier Reef, grazing in the Alpine National Park and the Franklin River from being dammed,” Senator Waters said.

More than 90 per cent of the 175 submissions to this inquiry supported the bill to remove the possibility of handing federal approval powers to the states.

The committee report and the Greens dissenting report is available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate_Committees?url=ec_ctte/completed_inquiries/2010-13/epbc_federal_powers/report/index.htm
Senator Larissa Waters Australian Greens Senator for Queensland