Jul 26, 2006

Campbell’s parrot games exposes Commonwealth to legal action

Campbell’s parrot games exposes Commonwealth to legal action


26 July 2006

Minister for Environment Ian Campbell’s political decision to block the Bald Hills wind farm may have exposed the Commonwealth to legal action and damages.

On 5 April 2006, the Minister for Environment Ian Campbell said he decided to block the Bald Hills wind farm in Victoria because “the report commissioned by my Department has said the orange bellied parrot, which is threatened and in a very precarious situation as a species, can’t really stand any further impacts”.

However, reports today reveal the project was supported by the Minister’s Department for environmental and scientific reasons, but then blocked by the Minister for political reasons.

The Department of Environment and Heritage told Minister Campbell on 10 March 2006 there did "not appear to be direct evidence of any impact on the orange-bellied parrot" from the Bald Hills wind farm.

The Department’s advice recommends the Minister approve the wind farm subject to a range of standard conditions, as previous Environment Ministers had done for five other wind farms.

Minister Campbell cannot hide behind his Department any more.

By blocking the wind farm for political reasons Minister Campbell may have used his Ministerial power for an improper purpose. This may expose the Commonwealth to legal action under the tort of “misfeasance in public office.”

To potentially protect one parrot every 1000 years, the Minister stopped a $220 million project that would have reduced greenhouse emissions by 435,000 tonnes a year. That’s the same as taking 100,000 cars off the road every year.

The Howard Government is setting dangerous precedents for arbitrary, political interference in infrastructure development.

Instead of blocking clean energy projects, the Howard Government should seize the economic opportunities of the worldwide push to clean, renewable energy.

Clean renewable energy offers Australia a real opportunity to expand employment in manufacturing industry, particularly in regional Australia.