The Australian government is vandalising the environment

Tony Abbot likes his he-man image.

In its first nine months, the Abbott government has launched an all-out attack on Australia's unique and priceless environment from the Great Barrier Reef to the World Heritage forests of Tasmania. Mr Abbott's first budget continues this radical agenda with cuts to environment programs and protections across the board. Our precious natural heritage is under threat like never before. He’s setting the scene for decades of decline in our healthy air, clean water and precious places. The Senate has agreed that it’s time to run an Inquiry into Australia’s environment, and the attacks on it by our current government.


Our clean water, clean air and natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef are precious to all Australians, so let’s not allow Tony Abbott to undermine our environment without a fight.


The natural world that we enjoy every day hangs in a delicate balance. Extinction of species, pollution of our air and water, the decline of reefs and climate change are all occurring at unprecedented rates.


We need national leadership to stop the biodiversity crisis, save our threatened species, and protect our precious places. We must protect what we love about Australia, now and into the future.


The Abbott government is allowing big business and mining interests to trash the nature that we hold dear. The Greens are the only political party that will stand up for the environment, every time.


We know the environment isn't safe under the Abbott Government. It is allowing big business and mining interests to trash the nature that we hold dear.


The World Heritage Committee has expressed concern about the Abbott government’s approval of new coal ports and has warned that if the trajectory of industrialisation continues it may place the Great Barrier Reef on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. Despite that clear risk of international shame and damage to our tourism industry, the government refuses to adopt all the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee.


The Abbott government has approved the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion – the world’s largest coal port in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. They approved 5 million tonnes of dredging and offshore dumping of that sludge back into World Heritage waters, because it was cheaper for the mining companies than treating the sludge and disposing of it safely on land.


Despite declining coral cover, the Abbott government cut the successful Reef Rescue program and cut $2.8 million over 4 years out of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, even though its responsibilities have increased in recent years with no commensurate funding increase.


Despite the success of the carbon price, Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and the Renewable Energy Target in driving investment and jobs and reducing emissions, the Abbott government is determined to tear them down in favour of roads and coal.


The Abbott government abolished the positions of Climate Change and Science Ministers.

The Abbott government wants to axe the successful carbon price, abolish the Climate Change Authority responsible for recommending science-based emissions reductions targets, and abolish the independent Australian Renewable Energy Agency which developed cutting edge clean energy technology.


The Abbott government put a known climate sceptic in Dick Warburton in charge of reviewing the Renewable Energy Target, abolished the independent Climate Commission which was set up to inform the public about the consequences of climate change, and abandoned their own election commitment to introduce the Million Solar Roofs program to help low income households reduce emissions.


The government also wants to repeal the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which has bankrolled renewable energy projects and achieved a profit for government and reduced emissions, and wants to remove energy efficiency measures for big polluters by repealing the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act.


These actions are economically foolish, environmental vandalism and are pure ideological warfare against science and our grandchildren’s future. As for Direct Action and the emission reduction fund, it is an expensive pay-the-polluter grants scheme with an inadequate 5% reduction target that not a single economist believes will work.


The Abbott government has approved every coal mine and coal seam gas project that has crossed its desk. Despite the climate time-bomb that the economically marginal coal mega-mines planned for the Gallilee Basin represent, the Abbott government approved Clive Palmer’s China First coal mine and Gina Rinehart’s Kevin’s Corner coal mine with the huge Carmichael mine approval expected shortly.


Rather than fix the Mineral Resources Rent Tax so that it brings a fair return to Australian taxpayers, the Abbott government wants to repeal it.


Rather than extend federal protection for water to shale and tight gas to protect farmland and communities across the country, the Abbott government is giving away federal protection for water from coal and coal seam gas to State and Territory governments who have mismanaged coal seam gas by ignoring long term risks to water from the outset.


The Abbott government has failed to give rights to landholders by voting against Greens legislation to give landholders the right to refuse coal and CSG on their land, breaking an election promise and a personal commitment given by Tony Abbott on behalf of the Coalition.


Despite mounting evidence that Whitehaven Coal made misleading claims to the government regarding environmental offsets, the Abbott government has dropped the criminal investigation into the Maules Creek coal mine’s dodgy environmental offsets.


The Abbott government is in the process of handing over hard-won federal environmental approval powers for matters of national environmental significance back to state governments, a backwards step of 30 years. Matters of national environment significance include our World Heritage Areas and endangered species. State governments have a poor track record when it comes to environmental protection. Current State premiers are threatening our national parks with logging, mining and grazing.


If state premiers had these powers in the past, there would be oil rigs on the Great Barrier Reef and the Franklin River would be dammed.


The budget papers show that 299 further redundancies will occur across the Environment Portfolio the 2014-15 financial year, including 184 within the department itself, with additional job losses are from other agencies including the Bureau of Meteorology. This totals more than 450 redundancies in 2013-14 and 2014-15. On top of this, the department is required to make tens of millions of dollars in more cuts to its operational budget over forward estimates.


This Government’s attack on science, research and evidence based policy is a threat to Australia’s prosperity, with crippling cuts to CSIRO, and the Bureau of Meteorology as well as funding cuts to environment and climate research by combining the National Environmental Research Program and Australian Climate Change science program. We can’t continue to produce world-class research if the government keeps threatening the research budget every May.



By Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens Spokesperson for the Environment