Advocacy groups slam proposed environmental law changes

BRENT ROW

Under the proposed changes, the mining industry will face fewer legal challenges from environmentalists. Source: CSIRO.

Attorney-General George Brandis has drawn ire from civil liberties and environmental groups today, following his proposal to change environmental protection laws in Australia.

Under the proposed changes, Mr Brandis hopes to avoid future scenarios like the delays in the multi-billion dollar Adani coal mine, whose approval was successfully appealed by the Mackay Conservation Group earlier this month.

Mackay Conservation Group coordinator Patricia Julien said Mr Brandis’ proposed changes are not in the public interest.

“We wouldn’t be able to bring these cases, and the public interest wouldn’t be taken care of. If there was a broader community interest in something, and not just a specific person … then they would be denied justice in the courts and we would have no voice in the court system for the environment,” Ms Julien said.

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties President Michael Copeland said groups like the Mackay Conservation Group should have a right to seek court intervention against businesses which are flouting environmental laws.

“All they are saying is that there is a law here, and that law should be enforced. I would have thought that somebody like George Brandis would appreciate the importance of ensuring that the rule of law is complied with and the law is enforced,” Mr Copeland said.

Mr Copeland said the proposed changes will limit the ability of Australians to seek court action against those who are harming their interests.

“It’s disingenuous for the Federal Government to say that the Mackay Conservation Group don’t get a say because it is 600km away. We are talking about issues which are related to climate change which affects everybody, and everybody to some extent has a stake in our environment,” he said.

Mr Brandis will introduce the proposed legislation to Parliament later this week.

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