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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 614


Senator WATERS (Queensland) (13:22): I wish to speak to a series of amendments that the Greens will move, firstly amendment (2) on revised sheet 7442. The reason we will move that amendment is that this bill has two parts that passed the House of Representatives. The first part of the bill would seek to allow the environment minister to ignore conservation advice. In other words, this bill was originally drafted to allow the environment minister to ignore scientific advice about the impacts on threatened species of the very project that the environment minister was being asked to approve or refuse. The sheer nonsense of that amendment and the embarrassment that the environment minister should have felt to move that amendment to our laws unfortunately did not stop him from doing so.

In the House, the bill was amended and the ability of the environment minister to ignore science was time-limited. They said, 'Well, we won't let you ignore science forevermore. But from 31 December 2013 and prior it was fine if you ignored science then.' The Greens hold the strong view that you should never ignore science, and the audacity of the environment minister himself, being the person to move this amendment to the act to allow him to ignore science and to allow him to take decisions that fly in the face of advice about threatened species conservation, unfortunately speaks to the true attitude of this government to the environment.

So that is exactly why the Greens are moving today to delete that whole part of the amending bill. We do not think that the environment minister should be able to ignore science. We have conservation advisers for a reason, and that reason is to ensure that threatened species are indeed protected by our federal environmental laws from impacts that are likely to have a significant impact upon them. I am really pleased that in the course of discussions with the folk in this room that I believe the Greens will have the support of the entire chamber to say that, 'Actually, science is kind of important and threatened species actually do deserve to have our proper consideration when the minister is making a decision about whether to approve development that might damage them.'

With that said, I oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:

Schedule 1, page 3 (lines 1 to 26), to be opposed.