Category Archives: mining

“One stop shop” quick environmental approvals -to “simplify” business

Humane Society International Australia (HSI) 9th October Media Release, called upon Prime Minister Turnbull to call a halt to the disastrous and seriously faltering program to hand the Commonwealth’s environment powers to the states and territories, and to remove the “one-stop-shop” Bill that would permit such devolution.  “It was the Howard Government, in which Mr Turnbull served as Environment Minister, that worked so hard to strike a sensible balance between national and state roles and responsibilities for environmental issues and it’s time to restore that balance,” said HSI Australia Campaign Director Michael Kennedy.

HSI logo

The Australian Government is committed to delivering a One-Stop Shop Bill for environmental approvals that will accredit state planning systems under national environmental law, to create a single environmental assessment and approval process for nationally protected matters.

The One-Stop Shop policy aims to simplify the approvals process for businesses, lead to swifter decisions and improve Australia’s investment climate, while maintaining the facade of high environmental standards.

It’s expected to result in regulatory savings to business of around $426 million a year, by reducing costs associated with delays to project approvals and administration. This policy is about savings for businesses, more convenience for planning approvals, not stronger environmental protection laws!


Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt says that the “one-stop-shop will slash red tape and increase jobs and investment, whilst maintaining environmental standards.”  One of the major obstacles to creating a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals is that “Australia’s federal system of government is more like a scrambled egg than a neatly layered cake”.  Despite the wide range of ecosystems, territories, issues, biodiversity, and landscapes, they will all be unified under one process!  It will wind back 30 years of legal protection for the environment and put at risk Australia’s World Heritage areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests.  On the contrary, we need MORE red tape to STRENGTHEN our environmental protection laws, not have them more easily processed!

It’s one-size-fits-all approach, of the Federal Government handing over approval powers to the States, for “development” projects!  The latter should raise the red flag – on what should be for the benefit of conservation, biodiversity protection and upgraded protection laws, rather than for businesses and “development” approvals!

The Commonwealth proposes to transfer some of its current responsibilities under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) to the States. VECCI Chief Executive Mark Stone says that “in the current economic climate, removing the roadblocks to job creation and productivity is crucial.”

So, this is about stripping back layers of approvals, and complexity, to make businesses more competitive, create “jobs” and increasing “productivity”, not more layers of environmental protection!

Biodiversity Offsets

Biodiversity offsets allow developers or mining companies, as part of their development approval, to buy and/or manage land to compensate for the clearing of forests and areas containing threatened plants and animals. They are supposed to be used as a last resort but have become standard practise in assessing major developments in Australia. State standards for environmental assessment and approval for major projects under the Australian Government’s “one stop shop‟ policy would mean more biodiversity offsets, and lower conservation standards in NSW and Queensland.  The use of offsets under EPBC can be multiplied tenfold when it comes to state based offsetting regimes. It is these very regimes that the government is currently looking to accredit as approvals regimes under the “one stop shop” policy.
Native species of animals can’t just be expected to adjust to “offsets”!  They are not meant to be pieces on a chessboard, to be moved by business “players” for their convenience.
A report by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) warns against relegating environmental approval powers to state governments, saying the environment will suffer.  State governments are seeking to ‘fast track’ major developments, such as coal mine and coal seam gas projects, reducing public participation and removing legal rights of local communities to mount legal challenges.  The EDO report shows the gap between the environmental standards in state and national laws is widening, not aligning!
The EPBC Act contains a number of valuable tools such
as a critical habitat mechanism, provisions for threat
abatement plans, recovery plans, wildlife conservation
plans and the listing of key threatening processes.  There is no wriggle-room for State vested interests!
With almost 1200 plant species and 343 species of animals considered endangered or vulnerable, the rates of species extinction in Australia are amongst the worst on the planet.
EDO analysis confirms the finding that, despite assurances
that the ‘one stop shop’ policy would ensure State and
Territory laws met national standards, no State or
Territory law currently meets all the core requirements of
best practice threatened species legislation.
Places You Love Alliance — Australia’s largest ever environmental collaboration, representing more than 40 conservation organisations across the nation — said a ‘one-stop shop’ for environmental approvals was in practice an ‘eight-stop shop’ that would create an administrative nightmare and significantly weaken protection for Australia’s unique places and wildlife.
“A ‘one stop shop’ would leave state governments in charge of assessing uranium mines and projects that would affect World Heritage areas and internationally recognised wetlands,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy.

If the One Stop Shop policy is implemented, Minister Hunt can simply hand over his powers for this project to the Victorian Government, which has a clear conflict of interest in the  Westernport project as both the proponents and regulators. Under the One Stop Shop, the approval of the Hastings port expansion will be a fait accompli.

The One Stop Shop policy will remove the last vestiges of federal oversight.


Since 1997, most native forests available for logging have been covered by RFAs. These have shielded wildlife and other heritage and conservation values from protection under Commonwealth environmental law by handing decision-making power to state governments. This is the same mechanism as the Commonwealth government’s proposed ‘one stop shop’ plan.

It is clear that the ‘One-stop-shop’ process would never raise the bar of state environmental laws, but would put in place a patchwork of different legal regimes that are far weaker than current Commonwealth conservation law, and inevitably trigger a new round of NGO legal challenges at the state and territory level.


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Koala habitat being cleared, mined and “developed”, with impotent environmental protection laws

Almost all the Australians are aware of the Koalas existence and they associate Koalas as one of the most native animals. We consider Koalas to be one of the national symbols of Australia, along with Kangaroos.  They are iconic animals.

The koala is featured in the Dreamtime stories and mythology of indigenous Australians. The Tharawal people believed that the animal helped row the boat that brought them to the continent.  In 2012, the Australian government listed koala populations in Queensland and New South Wales as Vulnerable, because of a 40% population decline in the former and a 33% decline in the latter.  In this light, protection of koala habitats should have been UPGRADED, not loosened!

Now, it seems that koalas in Queensland are simply “green tape” prohibiting the advancement of industries on their land!

The koala’s territory is getting smaller because people are cutting down trees and making farms on them.

A gas company has been given federal approval to clear 54 hectares of critical koala habitat for new coal seam gas wells on Queensland’s Western Downs.

QGC, which is owned by Shell, applied to drill 25 new wells near Dalby as part of project Anya. Four Corners reveals how several leading vets and wildlife organisations say high-rise developments up and down the eastern coastline are culling the koala population.

“While the identified koala habitat values within [the site] is considered to be in good condition, the very low density of koalas combined with large home ranges within a geographically extensive intact remnant, will result in “no significant impact”,” the report read.


(image: CC BY-SA 3.0,

Wilderness Society Queensland Campaign Manager Gemma Plesman said: “It’s outrageous that the [Malcolm] Turnbull Government would approve clearing more of their habitat when it is a threatened species supposedly protected by Federal law.

“Koala populations in south-east Queensland are feeling the crunch. Their homes are being torn up from urban development, industrial scale agriculture and, as we’re seeing here, mining.”

Ms Tabart Chief Executive of the Koala Foundation said the federal environmental act had failed koalas in Queensland.  Numbers of the iconic animal have been depleted in Queensland in recent years in large part due to lax land clearing laws and little government oversight to protect habitats.  Australia Koala Foundation chief executive Deborah Tabart described koalas in the region of southeast Queensland as “functionally extinct” and said the whole system of wildlife protection was broken.

“The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act in my view has been a complete waste of time to protect koala habitat,” she said.

“An area of 187 hectares within QGC’s biodiversity property in central Queensland will be set aside to offset any potential loss of habitat.” But Ms Tabart said that was pointless.

“You get up to 70 and 80 per cent mortality once you move animals away from their homes,” she said.  You can’t just “offset” habitat. 

Under pressure from big business Federal, State and Territory governments are moving forward with an aggressive plan to wind back our environmental protection laws. By cutting ‘green tape’, handing important federal approval powers to the states, and fast tracking approvals for large development, federal protection for our most special places and wildlife will be removed, and mining and other destructive development in our forests, woodlands and along our coasts will be accelerated.



In another attack on our native icons, koalas,a Chinese property developer closely connected to a mayor in southeast Queensland has secured approvals to build a $750 million resort in a koala habitat that the state government has said it will not oppose.  Why are foreigners able to “develop” our land, anyway? Would Australians be building a resort over Panda habitat?

The above approval by Logan council, which is expected to deliver massive windfalls to developer Liansheng Yue after he bought the farmland for $843,000 in 2009, was granted despite 28 of 29 public submissions received by council opposed to the project.  What’s windfall for the developer, is a permanent tragedy our nation, being cleared of native animals.

Koalas are facing death by a thousand cuts, and legislation that protects big businesses and corporations, just obliterating any environmental laws that protect our native animals. Where is our “Environment” Minister, and environmental protection laws? They don’t exist if they can just be over-ridden.

Unless we stop the bulldozers, the koala will go extinct in Queensland.  Extinction is a process, not an event.  Australia’s reputation as being famous for fast-tracked native animal extinctions must end.



This was sent via email to Dr Steven Miles is the Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef.  Steven has a PhD in Political Science and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Journalism from the University of Queensland.  Note: NO environmental, ecological or zoology credentials at all!


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Shenhua Watermark coal mine will destroy farmland and koala habitat

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, said “It is ridiculous that you would have a major mine in the midst of Australia’s best agricultural land,” Shenhua’s open cut coal mine on the Liverpool Plains in north-western NSW, which is one of Australia’s most productive farming areas.

The Liverpool Plains generally produce winter and summer crops, yielding about 40% above the national average of food per hectare and contributes approximately $332 million to GDP annually.

The mine’s owners have earmarked offsets to compensate for the wildlife losses, as if our native animals species were merely collateral damage. Most of the mine will eventually be “rehabilitated”, a spokesman for Shenhua said. The NSW Government approval failed to properly consider whether the mine was likely to significantly affect Koalas. If the mine goes ahead it will clear 847 hectares of koala habitat. Expecting them to “rehabilitate” is simply a throw-away line!


Australia, the land infamous for native mammal extinctions, continues to ignore our natural heritage and the welfare of our indigenous species. Australians are losing control of our sovereignty by the betrayal of greedy politicians, overwhelmed by short-term monetary gain at the cost of our long term future.

Coal mines are not energy investment of the future.

Show us you care about our country, our people, our farmers, earth and climate change.

Petition: Revert the decision to sell to China the Watermark coal mine

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The species that defeated the Carmichael coal mine

The Abbott government is pushing its plan to change environment laws after so-called “vigilante litigation” overturned the massive Carmichael coal mine. The plan was defeated because the Federal court found Environment Minister Greg Hunt had not properly considered advice about two threatened species, the yakka skink and the ornamental snake. The law requires that the Minister consider these conservation advices so that he understands the impacts of the decision that he is making on matters of National Environmental Significance, in this case the threatened species.

Yakka Skink

The yakka skink is a robust lizard around the same size as a blue tongue lizard. The average size from head to tail tip is 40cm, making it one of the largest skinks in the region. Its body colour ranges from pale to dark brown, usually with a broad dark brown stripe extending along the back from the neck to the tail. Yakka skinks occur in a wide variety of vegetation types including poplar box, ironbark, brigalow, white cypress pine, mulga, bendee and lancewood woodlands and open forests. Substrates include rock, sand, clay and loamy red earth.


(image: Australia Zoo )

Ornamental Snake

The Ornamental Snake is a brown, grey-brown or black snake growing up to 50 cm in length with lighter coloured body scales, often with darker streaks/flecks. The crown of the head is darker brown/black with lighter flecks, it has distinctly barred lips, a white/cream belly with dark spots/flecks on the outer edges, and smooth scales (Cogger 2000). The Ornamental Snake’s preferred habitat is within, or close to, habitat that is favoured by its prey – frogs. The species is known to prefer woodlands and open forests associated with moist areas, particularly gilgai (melon-hole) mounds and depressions in Queensland Regional Ecosystem Land Zone 4, but also lake margins and wetlands.


(image: Ornamental snake )

The country’s top legal officer, Attorney General George Brandis, wants to make it harder for people to challenge large scale developments like the Adani coal mine.

Australia is already infamous for species extinctions and threatening processes. The area is the home of the endangered Black-throated finch, threatened Waxy Cabbage Palm, the Mellaluka Springs and koalas. These are important to the case because they are each expected to be impacted by the mine should it proceed.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the mine, and Adani’s environmental track record, had not been taken into account. “Not taken into account” would be the new “norm” if our government had its way!

The plan to change environment laws to stop green groups mounting legal challenges to big developments is an admission that our environmental policies and protective laws are not entrenched, or enshrined, as part of our constitution, but vulnerable to political sway and corporate pressure.   The incremental process of dismantling our biodiversity protection policies, and environmental security, can’t be compensated for by economic benefits.

Abbott’s rant of “jobs and growth” is shallow, self-destructive and counter-productive if our life-supporting environment, natural resources and heritage are all obliterated in the process.

(featured image: Black-throated Finch. The southern race of the Black-throated Finch is listed as Endangered under national, Queensland and NSW laws. It is thought to have become extinct in NSW, where it was last seen in 1994 and according to the Black-throated Finch Recovery Team, the extent of its occurrence has contracted by 80 per cent over the last 30 years.)

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