Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by Senator Hanson-Young today relating to environmental protections.
Of course this government has always had it in for the environment. This government has always wanted to find a way to weaken environmental protections—and we really have to question how much weaker they can get. We have the situation where one million hectares of koala habitat in this country have been destroyed. We have koalas in this country, in some parts, that are endangered. We have mines that are given approval, only then to contaminate water catchment areas. And, of course, we have the devastating and shocking destruction of 46,000-year-old ancient Aboriginal heritage. And this has happened under this government's watch. This has happened under the laws that are currently in place.
What we've seen from the Prime Minister this week, on the subject of my question to Senator Birmingham, is that the Prime Minister wants to weaken these laws even more. He wants to fast-track developments projects and mining operations so that they can get going faster and bypass environmental regulation. The Prime Minister calls it 'cutting green tape'. Cutting corners is what it is. It's cutting environmental protection. That the government tries to argue that cutting regulations will somehow not result in weakened laws just beggars belief. No-one believes that. It doesn't make any sense. The government wants guaranteed approval processes; that's what it's after.
We need environmental protections and laws in this country that actually protect the environment. Australia has one of the worst extinction rates in the world for our native animals. We have land clearing that's continuing at such a rate that our native animals are losing their homes day by day, month by month. In many cases we have Australian wildlife animals that are now so badly endangered they're on the brink of extinction.
During the summer's bushfires, Australians were shocked at the destruction of our environment. They grieve for the death of our wildlife. They want the government to do more to protect our favourite places, to protect our forests, to keep our beaches clean, to look after our coastline and to keep our rivers, streams and lakes clean and healthy. They want less pollution. Australians know that too much of our nature has been trashed in the name of profit, and they want a change from business as usual.
This government wants to cut protections to the environment even further. I asked the minister today whether, in cutting these regulations, he could guarantee that no more koala habitat would be destroyed. He couldn't answer the question. He can't guarantee it, because this government is about to sign off on a set of rules that allow for more koala habitat to be destroyed, with no checks and balances, or very few. I asked the minister whether he could guarantee that no more ancient sacred sites would be blasted and blown up, as Rio Tinto did only a couple of weeks ago. He couldn't guarantee that either. Putting in fewer protections, weakening the laws and allowing companies and corporations to cut corners when it comes to the environmental application process are going to push Australia's nature—our environment and our native animals—to the brink of extinction. (Time expired)
Question agreed to.