Page MP Defends Plans to Change Environmental Law

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The member for Page has defended the Federal Government’s moves to limit environmental court action.

Federal Cabinet has agreed to repeal a section of the law to limit who can initiate court action against projects with federal environmental approval.

The move came after a successful court challenge to the environmental approval for a multi-billion dollar coal mine in Queensland.

Kevin Hogan said the current legislation allowed trouble makers the opportunity to mount legal action.

“At the moment the bill says any person aggrieved, so if you are just upset about a certain project you can mount a legal challenge,” he said.

“That’s why we have a group that is 600 kilometres from something, and an organisation in a different state mounts a legal challenge.

“There are groups out there who want to disrupt and delay.

“It’s written in their constitution, we will disrupt and delay any project in this area in any way we can.

“You can still mount a legal challenge, you can still put before the courts your problems or your issues with a development but you have to have an interest in it.

“You have to live near it, you have to be within the vicinity of it, be affected by it.

“You can’t live in Perth and mount a legal challenge about something that’s happening in Queensland.”

The principal solicitor for the New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) said the push to stymie litigation against major developments showed a grave misunderstanding of the legal system.

North coast lawyer Sue Higginson said changing the rules would deny some people access to the legal system.

“It would be a real backward step in terms of the law, in terms of access to justice, and in terms of environmental protection,” she said.

“The standing provisions have been embedded in laws around Australia now, environmental laws, since the late [19]60s-70s.

“They are necessary laws because without standing, a community group or an individual needs to show that they have some kind of financial or property interest in order to bring a case.

“The courts are well versed in recognising a vexatious claim or a non-meritorious claim, and that just does not happen.”

Source: ABC News

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