Tag Archives: Environment Minister Greg Hunt

“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.

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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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It’s our national duty to protect endangered species

It’s our national duty to protect native endangered species, not sacrifice them to urban sprawl.


Dear Minister Hunt,

I am writing to you in regards to the Southern Brown Bandicoots (SBB) in Cranbourne area, as per the ABC news on Sunday night, 28th February.

This devastation is happening in YOUR electorate, and it’s shameful that there is no voice from you as Environment Minister?

These SBB are already threatened, and there are so many native species in our growing threatened species list!   Why wasn’t the fox-proof fence built, that was already funded?  Why will the animals have to go, for HOUSING!  We have enough houses in our city, and why do we need MORE destructive urban sprawl?  People are not a threatened species, and an economy relying on building houses is shallow and destructive!

The small brown marsupial is listed as nationally endangered.  There is no point in saying their numbers are sufficient elsewhere!

Australia is a land famous for our rich biodiversity, but it seems our decision-makers, including you,  are intent on destroying as much as possible of it – and in this case simply to appease property developers!

It was decided that there was no benefit to be gained from the wildlife corridors, but this is NOT about monetary gain.  The Victorian Government’s own bandicoot strategy said the corridors were not “cost effective”.   It’s incompatible with urban sprawl.  We have a legal obligation to protect our natural heritage, and “cost” is irrelevant as there is already funds available.  They have intrinsic value, and are part of our natural heritage.  Where’s the “cost effective” policy for urban sprawl?

These delightful little suburban battlers were once common in our southern suburbs, and now just a few remain in the Pines Flora and Fauna Sanctuary at Cranbourne.  A patch of bush in the back blocks of Frankston on Melbourne’s urban edge is just 10 kilometres from the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens.

Peninsula Link spent $20 million of taxpayers’ money on an underpass, and handed over $1.6 million to Parks Victoria for the fence.  But Parks Victoria never built the fence.  Where’s the money for the SBB now?  Bandicoots don’t need corridors, but their habitat protected.

We have the EPBC and our Wildlife Act, and are set up to PROTECT our native species, so why isn’t this Act being implemented and enforced?  It seems that the major contributors to our environmental threats are somehow and conveniently exempt  from prosecution, and from limits to their actions.  How are property developers exempt from laws protecting wildlife?

We are locked in to a Colonial, cancerous type of economy, of new settlers, housing expansion, vegetation clearing, or “taming the bush”, and unbending never-ending “growth” at whatever cost. This type of encroachment onto native species habitats is a Third World problem, not one of a so-called leading, developed economy like that of Australia!
The Buck Stops with YOU!  You are the Environment Minister, so you can stop this habitat vandalism, and sending one more native species down the extinction trial.  Extinction is FOREVER, and would you like to be known by future generations for the demise if the SSB, and only be seen in reserves or stuffed in Museums?  Is this to be your legacy to future generations?  Killing off the last of the SBB?

We wait for your response,

Vivienne Ortega, secretary

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Magpies, kookaburras and willie wagtails among common Australian birds ‘starting to disappear’,

Magpies, laughing kookaburras and willie wagtails are on the decline in some regions, a report tracking the health of Australia’s bird populations has found.  Birdlife Australia, analysed data collected in more than 400,000 surveys across the country, the majority done by bird-loving volunteers.  The State of Australia’s Birds Report states that while predators including cats, habitat loss and even changes in climate might be to blame, more research was needed before certain species became endangered.  Habitat loss and changes are polite euphemisms for human destruction, such as land clearing and degradation for mining, logging, industries and urbanization!

(image: “Poser (543749091)” by aussiegall from Sydney, Australia – PoserUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Sightings of kookaburras have decreased at a rate of 40 per cent across south-eastern Australia. Magpies have declined significantly on the east coast, a new report shows. The Eastern curlew, a migratory shorebird that has recently been declared critically endangered.

Editor of Australian Birdlife Sean Dooley said the decline of common birds in parts of Australia was a surprise to researchers.

Numbats, malas, bandicoots and bettongs are among the mammals the Federal Government’s identified in its new Threatened Species Strategy. The birds include the mallee emu-wren and Norfolk Island boobook owl.

The Environment Minister Greg Hunt says feral cats are a serious threat to native species and that he wants the feral animals eradicated from five islands and 10 mainland enclosures within five years. Hunt has also set a target of 10 new cat-free enclosures on mainland Australia by 2020.

Dr Euan Ritchie is with Deakin University. He wants native predators like dingoes and Tasmanian devils reintroduced, as a natural way of culling foxes and cats. This is an enlightened approach to the status of Dingoes that have been vilified and trapped over decades as a threat to livestock! He also wants Tasmanian devils back to the mainland.

Ms Jane Nathan says in The Age 16 July 2015 that Melbourne is headed for eight million by 2050, and goes on to describe what it will be like in the most wildly optimistic tones imaginable. She says “our social harmony, kaleidoscopic culture, clean food, innovative education systems and greatly reduced crime rates are the envy of the world. Our neighbourhoods are artistic, green and pristine”.

According to MP Kelvin Thomson, in the Federal seat of Wills, it “Sounds like paradise. The problem is, there is no evidence to support it…And as for green and pristine, just this week it was reported that even common Australian birds, like the Willy Wagtail and the Kookaburra, were being sighted much less frequently. The reason for this is that the streets of mature gardens that used to give our birds food and shelter have been replaced by multi-unit developments and high rise. The vegetation has been destroyed, and the birds have died out”.

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Media Release: Land Clearing wrecking our environment

Environment Minister Greg Hunt

Dear Greg

This week media reports have detailed the Federal Government’s approval for significant clearing of Critically Endangered woodlands in the Hunter Valley and lack of oversight on potentially illegal broad-scale clearing in Cape York, permitted by the former Queensland Government in direct contravention of national environment law.

The Federal Environment Department has just given mining company Coal and Allied the green light to clear 535 hectares of White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland, a Critically Endangered ecological community listed under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The community has been recognised as Critically Endangered since 2006, primarily due to a decline in geographic distribution, and since that time numerous developments have chipped away at what remains. Permitting a further 535 vital hectares to be cleared for a single project indicates the Government is loath to use its habitat protection powers effectively.

This is a unique and incredibly important ecosystem that has been absolutely smashed by development. More than 93% of the woodlands have been cleared since European settlement, yet the Commonwealth has justified the destruction of a further 535 hectares by requiring a biodiversity offset management plan and vegetation clearance protocols – simply inappropriate measures for Critically Endangered habitats,” said Humane Society International.

Similarly bad news has surfaced in Cape York, where clearing of 33,000 hectares of habitat for the buff-breasted button-quail (the only known Australian bird to have never been photographed in the wild) and at least 17 other threatened species listed under the EPBC Act was permitted in the dying days of the former Queensland Government.


(image: http://www.magiclunchbox.com/mus_profF/robchild/birds.html)

The EPBC Act is not meant to be used in this farcical way – Maryland Wilson Australian Wildlife Protection Council Inc.

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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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