Health groups critical of rushed environment laws

Thursday 27 August 2020

Leading health organisations are deeply concerned about an attempt from the Federal Government to rush through major changes to our environmental laws in order to facilitate an expansion of the gas industry.

The federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley will introduce legislation into the parliament today that will put major fossil fuel projects on an approvals fast-track, and which appear to be an attempt to clear the way for rapid gas expansion, rather than protection for our environment and wildlife.

Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of the Climate and Health Alliance, the national peak body on health and climate change, said: "The federal government and complicit states and territories appear to be hell bent on rushing through legislation to expand the gas industry. To do so under the pretext of amended environmental legislation that will actually further our failing environmental protection and biodiversity conservation laws is breathtaking."

A review of the Act, which is underway and not yet completed, recognises 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."

"And yet, the immediate response of the government is to rush through legislation with no consultation, with no apparent benefit for the environment, and the potential for further environmental degradation and harm, including to the health of the population, by increasing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions."

In May 2020, 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 Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) put us at risk of further public health crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Armstrong said: "Australia's record on the environment is one of destruction, with record rates of extinctions among our unique mammals, one of the highest rates of biodiversity loss in the world, due in part to Australia’s aggressive land-clearing and deforestation.

"Our war on the environment is leading to a rise in new and novel diseases like COVID-19, and our emissions intensive economy is contributing to increasingly severe health threats associated with climate change.

"Gas is not an energy source we need to expand, not now, and not ever. We must quickly shift to expanding infrastructure for the renewable energy sources we possess in abundance, like the sun and the wind - creating secure, long term, sustainable jobs, and a healthy community."

For more information or to arrange an interview contact Adam Pulford on 0424 885 387

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