The recent Federal Court success of the Mackay Conservation Group against Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine could be the last of its kind, if Tony Abbott gets his way in Canberra.
The Prime Minister has announced a move to repeal section 487(2) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which allows environment and conservation groups to challenge administrative decisions in the courts.
“We want the highest environmental standards to apply to new projects in Australia,” the Prime Minister told the House of Representatives on Tuesday. “But, once those standards have been met, those projects must be allowed to proceed.”
Referencing the recent successful challenge against Indian giant Adani’s Carmichael coal mine plans, the PM accused green groups of ignoring Australia’s jobs market with its “sabotage” of the mining industry, and challenged the Opposition to support his move to repeal the legislation.
“[Carmichael] is a project that will create 10,000 jobs,” Abbott said. “This mine is being legally sabotaged by green activists running a strategic campaign against the coal industry and, in fact, against all large developments.
“I can inform you that this government will repeal section 487(2) of the EPBC Act, which gives activists the standing to sabotage decisions.
“This government knows where it stands on jobs. The question is: where does Labor stand on jobs?”
Deputy PM and minister for infrastructure and regional development Warren Truss weighed in, saying legal challenges against major mines added to the impact of the downturn in the mining market, especially in Central Queensland.
“We need to find ways to smooth the approvals process so that we can get jobs being created again in Central Queensland,” Truss said.
“The reality is that [environmental activists] have got a deliberate strategy, raising substantial amounts of money to stop projects. They outline in detail their intention to use legal processes to delay and delay until the proponents are eventually exhausted and walk away.”
Nationals MP Bruce Scott, member for Maranoa – which includes the proposed site of the Carmichael mine – voiced his concern for extreme “lawfare” interfering with jobs in his electorate.
Science and industry minister Ian Macfarlane supported Scott’s concerns, saying, “we need sustainable development of our mineral resources, including coal, to ensure that our economy continues to grow.”
Macfarlane appeared later on the ABC’s 7.30 Report, telling host Leigh Sales that the repeal was aimed at removing the right of extremist groups, not those who the Government agreed still deserve the right to appeal.
“For farmers for instance, who butt up to coal, mines, they will be the first to call out any environmental concerns,” Macfarlane said. “So we’re not taking away that right. We’re just saying if people live 600km away from a coal mine or from a development proposal, what right do they have to prevent that proposal to provide an economic boost to the region?”