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Let’s not rip away protection for our environment

The Australian Conservation Foundation says it would be a disastrous backward step to hand over national decision-making on the environment to state based one-stop-shops, as advocated by Opposition leader Tony Abbott in a speech today.

“Environmental matters of national significance must be determined at the national level,” said Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Don Henry.

“If the Queensland government had made the decisions about the Great Barrier Reef in the seventies the reef would now be dotted with oil rigs, if the decisions about the Franklin River in the eighties had been left to the Tasmanian government there would be a massive dam there today and if the Victorian government was responsible for decisions about cattle grazing in the fragile Alpine National Park it would now be a cattle station.

“Attempts by the mining industry and the big polluters to declare open season on Australia’s reefs, rainforests, wetlands and wildlife are totally unacceptable.

Let’s be clear: this is not ‘streamlining’, it’s an attempt to rip away hard-won protection for some of the places Australians value most highly.

“Australia’s leading businesses need to realise that the Business Council of Australia’s advocacy to weaken our national environmental laws will not be meekly accepted by the Australian public.

“Australians will want to see more detail about how Mr Abbott intends to achieve deep cuts in greenhouse pollution, protect our great natural areas and help farmers and families to do the right thing by the environment.

“While Mr Abbott is absolutely right that there is a proud heritage of conservative political parties in Europe, the US and Australia championing environmental protection, much of that proud history is in the distant past.

“We urge Mr Abbott to look not to the Republican party in the US, which has drifted into an ideological anti-environment position, but rather to the conservative Cameron government in the UK and its strong policies on cutting greenhouse emissions.”