Media Releases · Access to Justice

Citizens have right to use law to protect environment

07 August, 2015

Today it’s the Yakka skink, but tomorrow it might be the koala or the Great Barrier Reef – no matter what vulnerable species small or national treasure great, the people of Australia have a right to use the law to protect the country’s environment, economy and future says EDO Qld CEO & Solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg.

“As lawyers who specialise in environmental law, EDO Qld does not support amendments to the EPBC Act removing the requirement for a minister to consider approved conservation advices,” Ms Bragg said.

“To remove this requirement is not to ‘close a loophole’; it is to remove a substantive obligation to consider the best advice in relation to Australia’s most vulnerable animals.

“The proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine’s impact on vulnerable species is one of the many assessment failures of Adani that the court systems in Australia and Queensland have shed light on.

“Earlier this year, Queensland’s Land Court heard from Adani’s own witness that their earlier Environmental Impact Statement was likely to have overestimated the employment benefits and these were more accurately 1,464 net jobs not 10,000 jobs.

"Further, expert witnesses for Adani stated that “the benefits of this project are not about jobs” and that “this is an extremely risky project, everybody knows that”.

“The court process shows the significant impacts of such projects on our country and economy and the need for them be assessed in an independent court of law.

“It is disappointing the response of the government to a failure to comply with the law is to propose to reduce the independent scrutiny of the Courts.

“In this instance, they lost fair and square but rather than lift their game they are seeking to change the rules.

“Without fair and independent scrutiny of these projects by independent courts, we not only fear for the Yakka skink in Central Queensland but for the rights of citizens across Australia to stand up and protect their environment, economy and future.

“Successful community actions, such as the Alpha case in Queensland and the Warkworth mine in NSW, raise serious questions about the degree of rigour applied to the assessment of some of Australia’s largest proposed mines.  These cases also show the value in communities testing the claims of the miners in a court of law.

“The claim that these community actions are frivolous and vexatious, brought simply to delay, is demonstrably false.  This claim has been rejected by the Productivity Commission and the Courts, but is repeated ad nauseam by some individuals.

“We agree it is time for our governments to step up. It's time for government to step up and support the rights of its citizens to use the law to protect Australia, from the Yakka skink to groundwater for farmers and the Great Barrier Reef, which might I add provides thousands of  jobs and generates billions into the Australian economy each year.

“If developers of sustainable projects and government obey the law and adhere to the current assessment process, they will have nothing to worry about.”

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Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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