MEDIA RELEASE - 19th August 2015
COMMONWEALTH GOVERNMENT PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STANDING PROVISIONS OF THE ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION ACT 1999
The Chair of the South Australian Environmental Defenders Office today condemned recent comments of the Commonwealth Attorney-General and the proposal by the Commonwealth Government to amend the nation’s principle environmental legislation to prevent conservation and environment groups from challenging unlawful decisions made by the Minister under that Act.
The Government’s proposals have arisen following the recent proceedings in the Federal Court brought by the Mackay Conservation Group over Adani’s Charmichael coalmine proposal for the Galilee Basin in Queensland.
Mr Cole described suggestions in Parliament by Mr Brandis that challenges by environment groups to the lawfulness of decisions by the Environment Minister under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act were “vigilante litigation” as ill informed and politically self-serving.
“It is important to bear in mind” said Mr Cole, “that third parties such as environment groups bringing proceedings in the courts under the EPBC Act had to argue that the Ministers decision was unlawful: that is, not made in accordance with the Act”.
“It is not simply a matter of standing before a judge and objecting as matter of principle” Mr Cole continued.
“More importantly” said Mr Cole, “the proposals to limit the right to bring action in the courts to challenge the lawfulness of Ministerial decisions under the EPBC Act subordinated the rule of law to the political agenda of the Commonwealth Government”.
“The rule of law – the principle that no person is above the law (including Ministers of the Crown) – is fundamental to our democratic system” said Mr Cole. It is not a concept that can be rejected whenever it does not suit the government of the day.
The South Australian EDO will support all those who oppose the proposed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Environmental Defenders Office (SA) Inc.
Mobile: 0457 786 636