Life Science Environment Debate shut down as Aussies call for tougher environment laws

Debate shut down as Aussies call for tougher environment laws

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The equivalent of the national capital’s population has supported a petition calling for stronger environmental protection laws.

The petition is the most supported in the Australian Conservation Foundation’s history, with close to 410,000 people signing it.

ACF’s chief Kelly O’Shanassy has sent it to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Environment Minister Sussan Ley, who are in the midst of tweaking the national protection laws.

The changes are in response to an interim review of the laws, but rather than strengthening environmental standards the first move is to cut red tape.

ACF’s petition calls on the government to create a “new generation of national laws to protect nature and funding to restore ecosystems to bring our wildlife back from the brink”.

In his interim review, former competition watchdog Graeme Samuel found the current laws were ineffective and Australia’s environmental trajectory is unsustainable.

He recommended an independent environmental watchdog, which has been rejected by the government.

Instead the first changes set the stage for states to take over environmental approvals.

They will have to abide by a set of national environmental standards, which have not yet been developed.

The draft legislation underpinning the move is now set for the Senate after passing the lower house, despite the opposition’s attempts to delay it.

Debate over the bill in the House of Representatives occurred for less than two hours.

Ms O’Shanassy says handing more power to the states will fast track more wildlife extinction.

“It is not too late for the government to change its strategy, to instead strengthen Australia’s environment laws and establish an independent regulator to enforce them, as Professor Graeme Samuel recently recommended,” she said.

“We appeal to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to listen to the experts – and listen to the people – by strengthening our failing environment protection laws.”

Labor and the Greens oppose the government’s changes, and want Ms Ley to wait until Professor Samuel’s final report is handed down next month before changing the laws.