You'd no longer have a say

Fox, meet hen house. At a meeting this week the Federal Government will further its plan to hand over its environmental oversight and protection responsibilities to the State Premiers.

Where does this crazy idea come from? The Business Council of Australia. Why? Because states have a terrible record of protecting our most important national treasures and the Business Council wants a blank permission slip to mine, log, or develop wherever they like. If it weren't for the protection of the Federal Government, we would have lost places like the Great Barrier Reef, the Franklin River, the Daintree Rainforest and Fraser Island a long time ago.

Most Australians have no idea this is even happening, much less what it could mean for the places we love. But we can change that. By increasing public awareness about all that's at stake, we can counter the influence of the Business Council at Friday's COAG and back in the politicians who want to protect the places and species that belong to all Australians.

That's why we're taking out a full page ad in The Australian on the day of the COAG meeting, asking the Prime Minister and Environment Minister Tony Burke to step up to their responsibilities, not hand them over to Barry O'Farrell, Campbell Newman and the other State Premiers.

It beggars belief that the Prime Minister would want to hand over power to the States at a time like this: former NSW government ministers are being investigated for multi-million dollar corruption in relation to Hunter Valley mining licenses. Queensland's Campbell Newman is trying to allow giant coal ports inside the Great Barrier Reef. And in Tasmania, miners want to dig up the ancient rainforests of the Tarkine.

Experts are already lining up to call this a really bad idea. Sir David Attenborough joined 500 of the world's leading conservationists in an open letter to Julia Gillard, urging her to reconsider1. Former Federal Court judge Murray Wilcox has called the move "an extremely backward step" and says, “I’m just staggered, frankly, that it’s being given serious consideration."2 Every environmental group in the country agrees with them.

Here's why: state governments don't exactly have a great track record with environmental protection. They're too dependent on royalties from major projects like coal seam gas, mining and development. They have a direct incentive to push approvals through quickly and deal with the fall-out later. Don't let them get away with it: click here to chip in to increase public pressure and hold them accountable.

It's little wonder that the vast majority of Australians -- 85 per cent according to the latest poll -- believe the Federal Government should be able to block or make changes to major projects that could damage the environment.3 We simply don't buy the idea that State governments can be trusted to make tough calls on issues of national significance; or that if you live in Adelaide you shouldn't have a say on a giant mining proposal inside the Great Barrier Reef.

This land belongs to all Australians and it's up to the national politicians we all elect to protect the places and species that matter the most. Don't let the Federal Government cave to lobbying by Big Business who want this critical power in order to fast-track project approvals. Help fund a full-page ad where we know it will get the PM's attention: The Australian on the day of the COAG meeting.

Thanks for all that you do,
The GetUp team.

1 Humane Society International of Australia, Sir David Attenborough urges Prime Minister not to abandon national environmental powers, 23 November 2012.
2 The Financial Review, Green groups threaten action on approvals, 3 December 2012.
3 Lonergan Research poll, comissioned for the Places You Love campaign, October 2012.

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