Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government considering law to stop environment groups taking legal action

legal actionCoalition can bring back green ‘lawfare’ bill if Senate supports it, says Turnbull
Prime minister floats plan to reintroduce controversial laws to limit right of conservation groups to mount court cases,
Guardian, , 24 Oct 16, The government plans to reintroduce controversial laws to limit the legal standing of conservation groups mounting court cases if it thinks the new Senate will support them, Malcolm Turnbull has revealed.

At a press conference in Sydney on Monday Turnbull expressed concern that “systematic, well-funded” environmental campaigns were targeting major projects and flagged a renewed attempt to pass the law.

In August 2015 the Abbott government announced it would remove the right of most environmental organisations to challenge developments under federal laws unless they could show they were “directly affected”.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act allows any Australian citizen or resident who has engaged in conservation activities in the previous two years to bring a legal challenge to government environmental decisions.

The proposed changes followed a federal court decision that the then environment minister, Greg Hunt, had not properly considered all advice in his approval of Adani’s $16.6bn Carmichael coalmine.

After becoming prime minister Turnbull unexpectedly retained plans to introduce the laws limiting legal standing…….

The Greens environment spokeswoman, Senator Larissa Waters, said: “Stopping ordinary Australians from enforcing our environment laws would be a capitulation to the hard right inside the Coalition and yet another win for Tony Abbott.”

She added: “Gutting public enforcement of environmental laws is an attack on democracy and the rule of law.

“When governments fail to enforce or comply with their own laws, it falls to community groups to hold them to account.”

Waters said there were already strict rules that limit which cases go to court and frivolous or vexatious claims could be struck out.

On Tuesday a United Nations special rapporteur, Michel Forst, criticised the proposed law after a two-week visit to Australia investigating protections for human rights defenders, including environmentalists.

Forst said there were already significant obstacles to environmental litigation including complexity and the risk of a costs order if a case was unsuccessful.

An Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner, Basha Stasak, welcomed the UN rapporteur’s findings that environmental campaigners had been “vilified” for legitimate legal action.

She called on the government to “take on board the recommendations that environmental groups have a legitimate interest in decision making and in the courts” and withdraw amendments to deny them standing and deprive them of tax-deductible status.

October 27, 2016 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics

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