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Under draft standards for environmental protection released by the Federal Government, state governments would be allowed to damage Australia’s nationally significant environmental assets, said the Australian Conservation Foundation.
“The Federal Government risks shirking its important responsibility to protect our national environmental assets, including World Heritage areas, such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics,” said ACF CEO Don Henry.
“Under pressure from big business, the Federal Government is considering handing its environmental approval powers for large development proposals to the states.
“The Federal Government has come out today with a set of draft standards that state governments will have to comply with when approving these developments.
“The standards are vague at best, leaving plenty of wriggle room for state governments to allow mining, dredging, clearing and damming without proper regard for the environmental effects.
“This would be a great leap backwards for the environment and the operation of our federal environment laws.
“What’s more, the standards give no assurance that citizens will be able to have a meaningful voice in the process, nor any assurance that state decisions will be reviewable by the courts.
“Australians have seen time and time again why the Federal Government needs to have the final say on development proposals that affect the environment.
“If state governments had had their way in the past, the Great Barrier Reef would be littered with oil rigs; the Franklin River would be dammed and cattle would be trampling the Alpine National Park.
“Conservation groups around Australia will vigorously oppose this retrograde proposal,” Mr Henry said.
Recent polling shows 85 per cent of Australians agree the Federal Government should be able to block or make changes to major projects that could damage the environment.