Senate must block government environment law changes to protect health

Friday 04 September 2020

Leading health organisations are calling on the Senate to block the Coalition government’s amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in order to protect the health of the community, following the government gagging debate yesterday to rush the amendments through the House of Representatives.

Fiona Armstrong is the Executive Director of the Climate and Health Alliance, Australia’s peak body on climate change and health. Ms Armstrong said: "It is incredibly disappointing that the federal government gagged debate in the House of Representatives yesterday to rush through amendments that would weaken our environmental protection laws.

"Our war on the environment is threatening our health. A healthy natural environment is foundational to our health, well-being and survival.

"Australia's natural environment is declining on every possible measure. We lead the world in animal extinctions. There is no economy without a healthy environment.

"The government is trying to rush through amendments to our environmental protection laws that would weaken them in favour of expanding gas and fossil fuel projects that harm the environment and threaten human health.

"This is despite the fact that an independent review into Australia’s environment laws is ongoing."

The independent reviews interim report found that "Australia’s natural environment and iconic natural assets are in an overall state of decline and are under increasing threat. The current environmental trajectory is unsustainable."

Ms Armstrong said: "The independent review's interim report makes it clear: we must be strengthening our environmental protection laws, not weakening them.

"We call on crossbench Senators to join with Labor and the Greens to block the federal government’s attempts to weaken our environmental protection laws. Our health depends on it."

In May, more than 180 health professionals and 19 health groups published an open letter to Minister Ley, warning a failure to recognise the fundamental connection between human health and the natural world in the EPBC Act put us at risk of further public health crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Media contact: Adam Pulford, 0424 885 387

The Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) is Australia’s peak body on climate change and health. CAHA has 45 member organisations, including the Public Health Association of Australia, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.