Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. The Morrison government has said it will fast-track Australia's environmental law changes before the independent review currently underway into the EPBC Act is even complete. Isn't it true that the government is using the COVID-19 health crisis as an excuse to greenlight new projects for its mining and development mates and that it's undermining the integrity of the independent review and the work of the independent panel?
What is true is that we're going to focus on growing the economy more strongly again on the other side of this COVID-induced crisis, and all Australians would expect us to do precisely that. It has become way too difficult and way too expensive to get projects off the ground in Australia and, as a country, we need to reflect on that, and we need to ensure that there is an appropriate balance between effective environmental protection and the pursuit of economic opportunity, and that is precisely what our government is doing. We want to see our economy grow more strongly. We want to see more projects getting up. We want to see more projects getting up, which will then allow us to hire more Australians and give them and their families opportunities to get ahead. That is what we want to see, and we will do so in a way in which we will continue to maintain an appropriate focus and keep regard of all of the environmental protection requirements that we, of course, support.
I have a supplementary question to the minister. The sectors hardest hit by COVID-19 are, indeed, tourism, hospitality, arts and entertainment, making up 60 per cent of the job losses so far, yet the government has stacked their COVID commission full of mining executives and developers who are hell-bent on cutting green tape in the interests of the economy. Your government's more interested in your mates in the mining industry than they are in creating Australian jobs.
I couldn't really see the question at the end of that. I take that as a comment or as a little speech, but, just for the avoidance of any doubt, let me just say that I completely reject the premise of that nonquestion.
I have a third question for the minister. The government's appointed a COVID commission. Today, we found out in the COVID committee that, regarding the interests of the members of this commission, it is up to them, personally, to disclose their interests, as to whether the projects they advocate are benefiting them personally. What is the government going to do to commit to ensure their mates aren't feathering their own nest and are, instead, doing what Australia needs?
I was given a statement before instead of a question, so I'm going to give a question back in response to the question. How do you declare your interests if not by yourself? Who declares your interests on your behalf? Who else, other than you, can declare your own interests? That is a genuine question. I'm somewhat intrigued. Let me just say that the people that are serving on the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission are distinguished Australians who are providing great service to our country at a very difficult time. We're very grateful for the service that they're providing—very, very grateful. It is a broad cross-section. I do not agree with the characterisation that Senator Hanson-Young has put on them in one swipe, in a sweeping statement. Let me just say that we support their work and we absolutely have great confidence that they will make the appropriate—