Changes to environmental protection laws widely supported
THE Greens moved to stop the Federal Government from moving its responsibility for environmental approvals to the state's on Tuesday.
Queensland Senator Larissa Waters moved changes to the Commonwealth's environmental protection laws to prevent the changes.
The government was supported by the conservative parties at both a state and federal level, and the changes will likely proceed during the December round of COAG meetings.
But Senator Waters said her bill would delete those parts of the Commonwealth's laws which allow the Federal Government to move the responsibilities to the states.
While the move did receive wide political and business support, environmentalists are concerned the move could lead to a watering down of the laws, and less rigorous enforcement of Australia's environmental protections.
"It was the Hawke Government who first recognised that Australia's environment was of vital importance to all Australians, and needed national governance - the Gillard Government must stop gutting environmental protection, and stop this plan to trash Bob Hawke's legacy," Senator Waters said.
During debate in the Senate last week, Senator Waters highlighted her concerns the state's "short-term profits" would be put ahead of the nation's environmental interests.
"And because state governments are far more likely to be fixated on the short-term royalties and returns from mining and development-much of which are trumped up, I might add-there will always be that conflict of interest," she said.
"The states simply cannot be trusted to look after our environment.
"The sad thing is that our national environment laws are already failing us, but, instead of making them stronger, both of the old parties are ganging up to make them even weaker."
Environment Minister Tony Burke has repeatedly said the changes to federal environment laws would not adversely effect the regulation and protections in place.