Target: Australian Senate Committee on Environment and Communications
Goal: Reject bill providing retrospective immunity to environment minister and mining industry
Australia’s environment minister, Greg Hunt, is pushing a bill through the legislature that will grant him immunity for his controversial approvals of mining projects that put threatened species at risk. Despite studies conducted by environmental scientists, Mr. Hunt chose to approve several projects, including the completion of a coal mine and an export facility, both of which remain open to legal challenges.
The minister is likely seeking this immunity as a response to a federal court decision to overturn former environment minister Tony Burke’s approval of an iron ore mine. Environmental advocates challenged the minister’s decision because the initial approval ignored reports conducted by the Environment Department that detailed the threat posed to local wildlife, such as the Tasmanian devil. If an environment minister is ignoring reports on environmental protections, then he or she is failing to do their job.
The minister believes that providing immunity to his decisions will assure the mining industry that their operations will not be expensively halted by the challenges of environmentalists. However, the expense to the mining industry would have never occurred if Tony Burke had done his job in protecting the environment. Greg Hunt’s approvals must be challengeable in order to prevent corruption by the mining industry and to prioritize protection of the environment.
Without the power to challenge official approvals, the mining industry will be able to proceed with environmentally destructive operations despite scientific evidence of harm. Therefore, the environment minister’s decisions cannot be given immunity from legal challenge. Tell the Australian Senate that they must protect the environment by rejecting this bill.
Dear Australian Senate Committee on Environment and Communications,
The bill to grant environment minister Greg Hunt’s approvals immunity from legal challenge would harm the environment now and in the future. Without the ability to challenge approval of key mining projects, environment ministers essentially have impunity to make their decision regardless of what is in the best interest of the environment. For example, in the case of the Tasmanian iron ore mine, if Tony Burke’s approval was immune to legal challenge, the threatened Tasmanian devil population would still be in peril. The environment minister’s decisions must be challengeable to ensure he does his job correctly. Granting him immunity sets the precedent that ministers can ignore the advice of experts.
Greg Hunt claims he wants to provide peace of mind to the mining industry that their projects will not be brought to an abrupt and expensive stop. If the mining industry wants to avoid having its projects halted, then it should ensure the environment minister has considered all factors. The minister must prioritize the environment over profits and granting his approvals immunity will encourage him to do the opposite.
Reject this bill and encourage your fellow senators to do the same.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Nachoman-au via Wikimedia Commons