As NASA reports record ice melt in Greenland, Australian federal and state governments remain convinced we have too much environmental regulation. They reaffirmed this belief at yesterday’s meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The communiqué gives very little detail, but it appears the environmental deregulation agenda outlined at April’s meeting is rolling onward behind the scenes:
COAG noted the progress report from its inter-jurisdictional Taskforce which was set up to advise COAG following the successful Business Advisory Forum meeting in April. The Taskforce has been consulting with peak business bodies and other organisations interested in specific reforms, including conservation groups which have an interest in environmental regulation reforms.
I assume the latter consultations are for show. This agenda was dictated by business lobby groups at April’s Business Advisory Forum; it’s not about protecting the environment. Recall that Gillard told business groups in April: “We are determined to get this done.”
COAG reiterated its commitment to reducing duplication and double-handling of environmental assessment and approval processes while maintaining high environmental standards that are risk- and outcomes-based. In line with the timing agreed at the COAG meeting in April, consultations are underway and negotiations for bilateral agreements are about to commence.
Recall that business wants all federal environmental protection powers abolished to fast-track environmental approvals. Recall, too, that in Queensland the mining industry is planning mega-mines and infrastructure to extract a billion tonnes per year of coal and coal seam gas, and ship it through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
If Prime Minister Julia Gillard really accepts the science of climate change, why does she trust Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to assess the environmental impacts of fossil fuel exports? Newman has declared his state is “in the coal business”, is funded by mining magnate Clive Palmer, apparently believes business lobbyists should automatically get what they want, has cut almost all his state’s climate policies, wants to remove climate change from the school curriculum, and has commended his Environment Minister for denying humans are causing climate change.
The Taskforce has worked with the Select Council on Climate Change to examine options to expand and expedite planned reviews into the complementarity of climate change measures with a carbon price. Significant progress has been made in establishing the scope for reform and in identifying measures for review. This process will be largely completed by late 2012.
Recall that business wants all non-market climate policies to be cut now that Australia has a carbon price. Recall, too, that the carbon price itself will soon be gone if the Liberal Party wins the next federal election.
The Business Advisory Forum and COAG will meet again in a few months’ time. By then, it may be too late to stop the demolition of Australia’s meager climate policies. This destruction is happening at a time when the climate crisis has never been more pressing. And it’s proceeding with very little publicity, very little scrutiny, and incompetent media coverage (for example, when Liberal leader Tony Abbott announced he shared Gillard’s and Newman’s policy of removing all federal environmental protection powers, The Sydney Morning Herald idiotically headlined their story “Abbott in green plan for states”).
Why are our politicians getting away with it?