Under attack in Australia on World Environment Day

5 June 2015

Australia's environment has never needed a helping hand like it does now. Yet, more than ever, our leaders are turning their backs on our natural places.

First published on ABC Environment – original here.

It is Environment Day. And it’s lucky that it has a day, because for Australia’s natural heritage, it has been a bad year.

Since the Abbott government came to power, it has unleashed a full-scale attack on the Great Barrier Reef, the climate, the forests and the renewable industry.

They have dismantled Australia’s climate policy and our international reputation along with it.

The US President, our most important international ally, shamed the Abbott government when Australia hosted world leaders in Brisbane at the G20 when he said that climate change is threatening the Great Barrier Reef.

Meanwhile, Abbott tells us that “coal is good for humanity” without a hint of irony. The Treasurer tells us wind turbines are offensive and Greg Hunt maintains he’s saved the Reef.

Yet, they’ve approved mega-mines in Queensland, which when up and running will — by themselves — be the world’s seventh biggest polluter.

It’s good for the economy our politicians claim. While the coal price tanks and global renewable investment booms, the Abbott government have tried to abolish the renewable energy industry, halting future investment by creating uncertainty over the Renewable Energy Target.

The Abbott Government has also sought to just abandon their responsibilities over environment laws and will do so again if given half a chance. Their ongoing attempts to weaken the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act are diabolical.

Add to that attempts to delist the World Heritage Tasmanian forests, claiming that loggers were the true conservationists. They have ripped up an agreement that ended a 30-year conflict to protect the forests.

They’ve kept fossil fuel subsidies, approved dredging on the Great Barrier Reef and most recently announced a $5 billion mining industry slush fund for mining projects in northern Australia. Public transport has stalled and cities are gridlocked, but the government keeps pushing for more roads.

They’ve reviewed national marine reserves, defunded the environment’s lawyers, CSIRO, and mocked science.

They’ve pushed coal seam gas projects on farmers, dredging on tourism, and denied communities wind farms.

And it begs the simple question: why?

Many of these decisions are deeply unpopular. Australians love our unique natural places, and conservatives usually conserve things. Howard established the Renewable Energy Target and the green zones on the Reef. But not this government.

This government have taken the donations and policy positions of their mates in the mining industry when it comes to climate change and their policies on the Great Barrier Reef. They write letters for Gina Reinhart’s trust fund battles. They try and take on Twiggy Forrest’s battles. They put mining company interests ahead of the tourism industry’s concerns.

The green groups have fought this. And now, they’re coming after us too. In a coordinated campaign with the mining industry, the LNP has announced an inquiry into the tax status of environment groups.

This is an attempt to stifle dissent from the environment groups. It fails to acknowledge that the LNP take considerable donations from companies who benefit from their damaging and destructive policies.

Because we have taken a stand defending the rights of farmers to access healthy drinking water, the rights of the tourism industry to have a healthy Reef and the renewable energy industry to exist — we are being threatened.

The most hypocritical aspect of this debate is that the donations the LNP receive from mining companies are tax deductible. That’s right.

We even have the situation where the extreme members of the LNP who are running this inquiry, people like George Christensen, are the leading advocates for dredging and dumping in the Great Barrier Reef’s waters. We also have Andrew Nikolic, an advocate for delisting Tasmania’s native forests from the World Heritage Committee.

So this Environment Day, we have a simple message. The environment is under attack like never before. The people who fight for it are also under attack. If you want to protect the Reef, the forests or just the planet, help out an environment group while you still can.