Oct 19, 2006

Senate Committee slams sloppy Environment Amendment Bill

Senate Committee slams sloppy Environment Amendment Bill

MEDIA RELEASE – ANTHONY ALBANESE MP

19 October 2006

Western Australian Liberal Senator David Johnston has condemned his own Party’s attempt to ram sweeping changes to Australia’s environmental laws through Parliament.

The unanimous Report of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills shines a light on how sloppy and potentially dangerous the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill is.

The Committee’s criticisms of the Bill run to some 12 pages, which speaks for itself.

The unanimous Senate Committee Report raises serious concerns about the absence of reasons or explanation in the Bill or the Explanatory Memorandum for some serious new offences and penalties, and the decision to limit appeals from Ministerial decisions.

Speaking to the Report in the Senate late yesterday afternoon, Senator Johnston put it very bluntly when he said:

‘This explanatory memorandum is probably one of the most appalling I have ever seen in the short time I have been in the Senate. It discloses no motivation, no reasoning and no justification for some of the most draconian powers that this parliament can conceivably and possibly enact: rights of search and seizure without warrant, rights of personal frisking without warrant.

… this legislation should go back to the drawing board.’

Rushing complicated and far-reaching legislation through Parliament without proper consideration or consultation shows contempt for Parliament and may create problems for the administration of the Act and for those who are subject to it.

The Bill curtails third party appeal rights, undermines public consultation and further politicises decision-making. The Bill abolishes the right to appeal some Ministerial decisions relating to the protection of whales and dolphins, threatened species and other wildlife.

The 409 page Bill has thousands of amendments, but not a single measure to protect Australia from climate change or cut Australia’s soaring greenhouse pollution.

If the Minister for the Environment really believes climate change is “a very serious threat to Australia”, he will support Labor’s amendments to put appropriate climate change measures in the Bill.