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<p>AAP Image/Dave Hunt</p>

AAP Image/Dave Hunt

The Go-Between Bridge in central Brisbane, built during Campbell Newman’s tenure as mayor of the city.

Shock And Ore

How fast can a new government dismantle an entire suite of environmental regulations? Surprisingly fast. Amazingly fast. Case in point: pro-development, pro-mining, ‘Can Do’ Campbell Newman and the Australian state of Queensland.

The leader of Australia’s second-largest state likes to build things. Queenslanders everywhere, from the state’s outback west to the tropical coast hugging the Great Barrier Reef, knew this when they voted for Campbell Newman in a March 2012 landslide.

Newman arrived in state parliament having previously worn the mayoral robes of Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city and its largest municipality, sprawling as it does across 770 square kilometres of the state’s southeast coast. In his eight years as mayor Newman oversaw construction of, among other things, the $328 million Go Between bridge, which connects the south and north-west banks of the Brisbane river, and the controversial $3 billion Clem Jones motorway between Woolloongabba and Bowen Hills (south-side to north-side, bypassing town).

City residents may be lukewarm about the Go-Between, and even bitter about the Clem 7, which is now in receivership. But for Newman, infrastructure projects are key markers of economic and political success.

“I get the sense, as someone now on the outside looking in, that it’s a pretty chaotic reform process that’s underway.”

Now, however, some Queenslanders are beginning to wonder about the cost of Newman’s nakedly pro-development stance.

In the space of eight months, his government has set a staggering pace for pro-development reform, all while aggressively pursuing the power to do even more.

One of Newman’s first acts as Premier was to push the Commonwealth to cede power to the states for environmental approvals and management. Presently, the federal government has to sign off on development in areas designated as having “national environmental significance”. However, supported by business, Australia’s conservative state leaders — Newman and his counterparts in Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria — wanted the Labor federal government to hand over control. (The federal government has since backed away from the changes and will retain oversight powers.)

Newman has offered a glimpse of how he, given greater control, would steward Queensland’s areas of natural beauty. For example, he has publicly lobbied for development in the fragile Great Barrier Reef area, for which there are about 45 development proposals in the pipeline. And dredging work in the Gladstone area, which has already led to changes in environmental standards, is supported by the state government.

<p>Julian Bentley, Australian Conservation Foundation</p>

Julian Bentley, Australian Conservation Foundation

UNESCO is warning that, under changes to Queensland’s environmental planning legislation, the Great Barrier Reef could be in peril.

It’s exactly this kind of development that the guardians of world heritage at UNESCO have asked the government to delay.

So concerned is UNESCO about Australia’s treatment of the reef, both at a state and federal level, that the international body issued a warning in June that the reef would be “danger listed” as a world heritage site in peril, unless Australia could ensure better supervision of the site.

Newman’s response? “We are in the coal business,” he told reporters. “If you want decent hospitals, schools, and police on the beat, we all need to understand that.”

This logic underpins the myriad, broad regulatory changes Newman’s government has earmarked or already enacted. The structure of the departments that deal in environmental issues — from mining, to fisheries, to national parks, and planning approvals — has been radically overhauled. Newman declares these moves are being made to eliminate so-called green tape — bureaucracy that, according to the state government, has stood in the way of a healthy economy.

Soon after the Liberal National Party assumed government, Newman appointed Liberal former federal treasurer Peter Costello to audit Queensland finances. To the surprise of few, Costello’s report found Queensland mired in debt and in a precarious economic state. The report paved the way for Newman’s service cuts and job-shedding policies. (The report was later reviewed — both independently, by University of Queensland economist John Quiggan, and by University of Sydney professor Bob Walker, on behalf of the Queensland Council of Unions — and heavily criticised as politically skewed.)

What’s driving the Queensland government is a commitment to the “four pillar” economy. The four pillars are tourism, agriculture, resources and construction — and LNP policy specifically advocates for a removal of impediments — tape of any colour or stripe — that may stifle them.

One key plank of the administration’s plan to achieve these goals is the Greentape Reduction Act (2012), that is intended to streamline environmental regulation so that development applications don’t languish in bureaucratic approval processes for months or even years. The bill was passed on July 31, but will not take effect until March, 2013. And it is by no means the only word on the subject from the new Queensland government. Other reforms have simply removed environmental protections, clearing the way for increased development of the state.

Newman’s administration has:

- Dismantled all carbon abatement and climate change schemes — including research into clean energy and programs that encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint — when it eliminated the Office of Climate Change.

- Pulled state government support from the $1.2 billion Solar Dawn solar research and power plant — which was destined to be the largest in the world and would have given Queensland a clear path to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

-  Eliminated more than 1,400 jobs across government departments dealing with environmental concerns, as part of a plan announced in the September budget to shed a total 14,000 positions across the Queensland public service through redundancy and “natural attrition”.

- Announced that it would roll back the Wild Rivers legislation that protects areas from development and mining in the Cape York and Western Rivers areas — despite a pre-election promise to leave the western rivers alone.

- Flagged changes to the enforcement of the Vegetation Management Act which regulates how and when landholders can clear native vegetation.

- Lifted the ban on shooting flying foxes, despite the endangered status of some species.

<p>JOHN WILSON/AFP/Getty Images</p>


Fruit bats hang from a tree in Gayndah, South Eastern Queensland.

- Proposed changes to the management of national parks that would open them up to tourism, allowing more access for 4WDs, horses and bikes in some areas.

- Announced plans to remove the South-East Queensland urban footprint, which determines the density of development in the region, a planning tool conservationists say protects koala habitat and safeguards biodiversity.

- Prioritised development in the Great Barrier Reef area, with plans to approve projects that UNESCO has asked the government to delay, given the condition of the reef.

In total, such changes have led critics to say the government has put development first and the environment last.

“Whatever the rule book was beforehand, it’s now open slather,” says one former Department of Environment and Resource Management employee, who now works with government in the private sector and therefore wants to remain anonymous.

“[Under the previous Labor government] the environment was an important part of the decision-making process. You couldn’t just go and do whatever you wanted without giving thought to how it impacts on the environment … Under this government they’re just freeing it up so you don’t have to think about it.

“They are just going to town on everything — any piece of environmental legislation.’’

Before the Liberal National Party government came to power, environmental policy was under one umbrella: water, natural resources, national parks, forestry and the environment were part of the Department of Environment and Resource Management.

“Having national parks in with recreation, sport and racing just goes to show a complete lack of understanding of what national parks are for.”

Now, Queensland has departments of Environmental Protection and Heritage, Resource Management and Mines, Energy and Water Supply, Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing.

There’s also the department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, which regulates big projects that impact upon those portfolios.

“From an environmental point of view, we needed to deal with principally one agency and now we have to deal with six,” says Toby Hutcheon, executive director of the Queensland Conservation Council.

In a press conference after his election, Newman said the changes would “create a department with a stronger focus on environment” and that he wanted to be able to speed up mining and development approvals.

Des Boyland, of Wildlife Queensland, says moving responsibility for national parks is particularly worrying. “Having national parks in with recreation, sport and racing just goes to show a complete lack of understanding of what national parks are for,’’ he says. “There’s no question tourism has a place in national parks, but it must remain secondary to the cardinal principle of biodiversity.’’

<p>Courtesy Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland</p>

Courtesy Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland

Des Boyland, of Wildlife Queensland.

But Newman’s government wants them together. In November, National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing minister Steven Dickson announced legislative changes to boost tourism in national parks. “These promised changes will deliver on our DestinationQ commitments, enabling Queensland’s struggling eco-tourism industry to become a major contributor to the state’s economy,” he said in a statement.

The Office of Climate Change was headed by Greg Withers, who is married to the former Labor premier Anna Bligh; the office was disbanded in May, with staff offered redundancy or reassignment. A spokesman for Environment and Heritage Minister Andrew Powell said 16 of some 30 to 40 staff took redundancies, the rest were reassigned within the public service. (A report in The Courier Mail puts the number at closer to 70.) The state government says the office was not needed because the relevant federal government department would handle climate change issues. “The [federal government’s] Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has created a climate adaptation strategy unit, to progress climate adaptation policies for Queensland,” Powell’s spokesman said.

<p>Courtesy Office of Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection</p>

Courtesy Office of Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection

Andrew Powell MP, Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, who remains unconvinced that global warming is caused by humans.

The state government has also made redundant 30 inspectors, whose role was to carry out compliance checks on resource and development projects with environmental conditions attached. The government wants staff who previously worked in office jobs to pick up those duties. “[The government] will be able to do this with its current workforce by streamlining its assessment and approval process, reducing the amount of time staff spend in the office doing paperwork and getting them out on site where they can make the biggest difference to maintaining environmental standards,” Powell’s spokesman said.

Such changes to the public service have caused much confusion among staff left behind in departments that deal with environmental oversight. The Queensland ombudsman, Phil Clarke, released a report on September 26 that found streamlined government processes designed to ensure consistent, expert advice when making environmental assessments were no longer working properly.

“The [Coordinated Assessment Committee] was created to ensure consistency in decision-making between different [Environmental Protection Agency] officers. [Department of Environment and Heritage Protection] officers have reported that the operation of the CAC is under review due to the departure of the experienced officers who used to form the CAC. One officer reported to the investigators, ‘all the experts we used to rely on aren’t there anymore’. At the time of conducting interviews with agency officers, a single officer was responsible for making decisions previously made by the CAC,” the report says.

Boyland backs up the ombudsman’s findings: “Some of the people they’ve lost — a wealth of knowledge will walk out the door with them, and maybe that’s what this government wanted, but you don’t want to then make the mistakes of the past.”

Michael Berkman was an adviser in the now-disbanded Office of Climate Change. He is one of those who took redundancy after the LNP came to power. He now works at the Environmental Defenders Office. Berkman says the speed with which the restructure happened surprised many staff.

“I get the sense, as someone now on the outside looking in, that it’s a pretty chaotic reform process that’s underway, simply because such a broad range of issues are being pushed through at the same time,” Berkman says.

“It’s just staggering the amount of reform that’s being pushed through… You get a general sense that the primary objectives that [the government is pursuing] through this reform agenda aren’t necessarily environmental objectives,” he says.

Another former staffer who asked to remain anonymous says those remaining in the job are “extremely overworked”.

“The morale is really low because they’ve been told that whatever they’ve been doing for their previous career is bullshit… and the rules are changing so fast that you don’t really know what they are.”

The Queensland government says the changes are designed to boost development and investment in the state.

In August, when the temporary state planning policy ‘Planning for Prosperity’ was released, it caught the eye of Australian Conservation Foundation president Ian Lowe who wrote for online journal, The Conversation, on September 13 that the state had taken a “Great Leap Backwards: [to] an old-fashioned determination not to let environmental concerns get in the way of expanding the mining industry in general and the coal industry in particular”.

<p>Courtesy Australian Conservation Foundation</p>

Courtesy Australian Conservation Foundation

Professor Ian Lowe, president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The policy — outlining a simplified development- and planning-approval process — was trumpeted by Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney in August as the first example of a new business-friendly approach.

“This is Queensland’s first positive, enabling planning policy in recent times, which will ensure economic growth that is not adversely affected by planning processes,” he said.

“It will ensure that state agencies and councils must ensure that economic development considerations are a fundamental planning consideration in this state. Its aim is to speed — not impede — development.”

Hand-in-hand with that, the Queensland coastal-protection plan which regulated development was suspended in October because it “is not sufficiently supportive of the Government’s commitment to grow the four pillars of Queensland’s economy”, according to the draft plan that replaces itGreen groups say the new draft plan erodes environmental protections designed to moderate the impact of development projects in coastal areas.

“Whatever the rule book was before hand, it’s now open slather. They are just going to town on everything — any piece of environmental legislation.”

The government rejects this.

“Claims that the draft SPRP lowers environmental protections are nothing more than the usual baseless, sensational rantings of radical green groups which will do or say anything to further their aims,” Seeney said in a statement.

But critics say that the government approach to environmental policy is to prioritise only that which fits the four-pillar imperative.

“Biodiversity issues and sustainability are considered dirty words by this government,’’ the former staffer says. “You have to tie everything back to the four-pillar economy … Weeds, pests, salinity, water access — that’s about as green as they get and anything more than that is just considered a resource to be used.’’

Former government employees The Global Mail spoke to say that now the Queensland government has shifted responsibility for climate change to the federal department, there’s no strategy to deal with issues relating to climate change either. Berkman says since the Office of Climate Change was disbanded the state government has had no plan for climate change regulation and planning, despite federal policies requiring implementation and co-operation by the state.

Powell’s spokesman said the government had created a “Climate Adaption Strategy” Unit within DEHP to manage federal government climate policies.

Powell, the environment minister, is on the record saying he doubts whether global warming is caused by humans.

Queensland Conservation Council executive director Toby Hutcheon agrees with Berkman that the government’s lack of a climate-change strategy is a problem.

“It’s been identified in the climate science that most of our coastal communities are vulnerable to sea-level rise and storm surge and that’s all been mapped,’’ he says. “Now we’re in a situation where there is no funding for local government to investigate where are the vulnerable areas in their communities. As a result no one can really move forward on this — no one can build.

“They don’t know whether they’re building on vulnerable land or safe land. So these are the kind of problems that are starting to emerge for a government that’s not taking the impacts of climate change very seriously. Clearly there are those in the government who are sceptics.”

The Insurance Council of Australia says it would be hard to find an insurance policy that would guard against climate change sea level rises anywhere in the world. “Almost no insurers cover actions of the sea in residential policies, and none covers anticipated gradual change in sea levels,” council spokesman Chris Sealey said in an email.

What policies do cover is influenced by maps and projections drafted by local councils and government planners.

“Liability for planning decisions is closely linked to compliance with planning laws and known information at the time of planning decisions. It is a matter for local planning authorities to carefully consider their potential liabilities when making these decisions.”

Climate change projections that predict sea rises and show potential impact on coastal communities were once the domain of the Queensland Office of Climate Change, but since its closure there is no central body to co-ordinate the mapping, and keep it up to date.

But a government spokesman told The Global Mail a new Climate Adaptation Strategy Unit has been created to “progress climate adaptation policies for Queensland”.

All of this, and more, has happened in fewer than eight months.

“Under the previous government if you wanted to make a legislative reform it was like a one-year process and took at least three months to get through cabinet,’’ the former employee says. “There was public consultation, industry and peak group consultation, submissions would be analysed.” Newman specifically campaigned against this, whipping up his image as “Can Do” Campbell Newman. And so, the former staffer says of the previous legislative process: “That is completely gone. Overnight they’re writing these new rules. Overnight they’re changing legislation.”

Powell’s spokesman rejects this claim — pointing specifically to the Greentape Reduction Act which he said had been two years (and governments) in the making. He said the Newman government’s legislative changes “have recently been subject to full public consultation in a regulatory assessment statement”. But did not provide any examples.

<p>Courtesy Office of the Premier</p>

Courtesy Office of the Premier

Premier “Can Do” Campbell Newman: his government has made sweeping changes to Queensland’s environmental policies in just eight months.

The Greentape Reduction Act is the government’s flagship legislation, but it’s the other changes, outside of this law, that have raised the most concerns – things like the new temporary planning policy.

Boyland is worried that the state government’s plan to put more planning control into the hands of local councils, through the temporary planning rules, will jeopardise environmental needs.

“Local authorities are going to be empowered to override regional plans,’’ he says. “So we’re going back to the bad old days of total inconsistency between adjoining areas — unfortunately vegetation and wildlife don’t recognise local authority boundaries.”

Decisions that used to be made with an eye for impact on a region as a whole can now be made without taking into account the way a neighbouring council area might be affected, he says.

Hutcheon says this government is lacking an environmental agenda, and isn’t taking sustainable development or biodiversity seriously.

“The government has come in with an agenda around economic development and while they have said they will protect the environment, it’s noticeable that they’re not using any terms like eco-sustainability or sustainability when they talk about economic development,” Hutcheon says.

“It’s almost like because they’ve been out of power for a generation they’ve missed the development of ecologically sustainable principles, and that seems to be missing in all their language.”

Certainly, September’s state budget — which dealt with a projected $10.768 billion deficit by raising mining royalties and axing staff — did not place high emphasis on environmental management. There was money for koala habitat protection and north Queensland crocodiles, but in his first budget speech, Treasurer Tim Nicholls said that the government’s priority was economic growth.

“Growth depends heavily on a critical but narrow part of the economy — investment in the resources sector, and particularly the [coal seam gas] to [liquid natural gas] processing and export industry,” Nicholls told the Parliament.

His budget speech foreshadowed the heavy cuts to the public service and set out government priorities. The environment was never mentioned.

ONE SERVICE THAT NOW FACES UNCERTAINTY is the Environmental Defender’s Office. Two weeks after its contract, worth almost $100,000 a year, was scheduled to be renewed, the staff of the Queensland EDO were told there would be no more money.

“We had to shut our doors to new enquiries and we had about 60 enquiries that were in train and we’ve been trying to get through that backlog on the remaining federal funds that we have,” EDO solicitor Sean Ryan told The Global Mail.

He singled out one change that, he claims, will severely curtail environmental law enforcement in the state.

In Queensland third parties (that is, those who are neither a developer nor the government) who are opposed to a development on environmental grounds, or who believe there is a breach of environmental law that needs to be addressed, can appeal to the Planning and Environment Court. Until earlier this year, provided the complaint was not a nuisance or vexatious claim, opponents were liable for only their own costs; this made it less onerous for a small-budget not-for-profit to challenge the plans of a deep-pocketed corporation.

After the state election the Queensland government announced the rules would be changed, making the default position of the court that the loser pays all.

“It doesn’t really matter what the laws say on the books, when they’re not abided by, by the companies, and they’re not enforced by the government, it then falls to the community to make sure those laws are complied with,” Ryan says.

Boyland is likewise concerned. “It’s virtually going to stifle a lot of not-for-profits, and certainly individuals, challenging inappropriate developments ... would you run the risk of paying $3 million or $4 million in high-flyer-developer legal costs if you happen to lose a case?” he says.

This revision to liability for legal costs, says Ryan, falls outside the realm of “green-tape” reduction.

“When people talk about green tape they usually mean redundant or unnecessary bureaucratic rules that delay without any benefit,’’ he says. “Certainly some of the changes of the Newman government have been directed towards that … But what I don’t think can be described as green tape is any reduction in the community’s rights, or any reduction of the enforcement of environmental laws, or reduction of the level of environmental protection.

“I think the cloak of green tape has been misapplied to some of the changes that are going through.”

The government disagrees. Powell’s office refused repeated requests for an interview with The Global Mail, and the premier’s office directed our questions to Powell. But through his office, Powell rejected the criticisms others had raised with The Global Mail that said the new procedures would lower environmental standards across the state.

“There is no change to the environmental outcomes expected from regulated businesses,” Powell’s spokesman said. “Our changes to reduce green tape will not lower environmental standards. Rather, they will boost transparency and accountability for environmental activities.

“Cutting green tape makes the process simpler for the companies which do the right thing and meet our high environmental standards, it also makes it easier for us to identify those who are not.

“The streamlining of these cumbersome processes will also let my department free up resources which can be redirected to frontline compliance and enforcement activities to ensure the ongoing protection of Queensland’s environment.”

Boyland is unconvinced.

“What they’re going to do is decrease the rigour that people have to go through for environmental assessments, and the only loser out of that is going to be the environment,” he says. “Heavens above, we’ve had measures for preserving biodiversity since 1996 and we’re still on a sharp decline with all the protections that are in place at present.”

<p>Queensland Conservation Council</p>

Queensland Conservation Council

The pre-election report card released by a coalition of environmental groups, scoring each of Queensland’s main political parties on their environmental policies.

BEFORE THE MARCH STATE ELECTION environmental groups put out a report card for the major parties. The document slammed the Liberal National Party’s policies on mining regulation and protection of the Great Barrier Reef as “poor”; it said the LNP’s plans for national parks and world heritage sites, along with protecting rivers, forests, wildlife and marine life more generally were average; and it assessed protection for coastal zones as half-way between poor and average. On no marker did the LNP earn any “good” ratings. The Labor party got three rankings between good and average, one poor (for regulating mining) and one average for Barrier Reef protection. The Greens, unsurprisingly, won plaudits in every section. Bob Katter’s Australian Party achieved one “good/average” on the regulation of mining, with almost uniformly poor ratings in other fields.

So it is reasonable to think that perhaps the people of Queensland did not expect the best environmental protections to be delivered by an incoming Newman government. Some may even support a shift in policy. But such swift, sweeping reforms have caught many by surprise.

Says Hutcheon: “They’re a government who definitely came into power with their own ideas, and I think that it remains to be seen whether those ideas are going to be effective and beneficial [to the environment] or not.”

29 comments on this story
by Gabrielle Henry

Thanks for this enlightening and well written story about an area of Queensland policy which does not receive much coverage. It is great to see a story like this about Queensland in a national publication as local media is very inadequate and uninterested in stories like this. The reporter obviously knew who to talk to and has echoed many of the opinions and concerns of those who live here and those who have been very concerned about the consequences of the evisceration of the Department of the Environment and its responsibilities. I hope the national media will continue to show an interest in Queensland as we have little hope that stories such as this will see the light of day up here.

December 14, 2012 @ 3:50pm
by Anabelle Pousson

Can we mention the proposed Cruise Ship terminal for The Spit, Gold Coast? This is ridiculous, short-sighted and will simply not be worth it in the end!

December 14, 2012 @ 3:52pm
by Yoda

Campbell Newman has just controversial announced an inquiry into Labor's Qld Health payroll debacle, with former Justice Sheppardson at the helm.

Rob Borbidge likewise had his "Connolly-Ryan" inquiry, which the Qld Supreme Court shut down for going outside its terms of reference and for bias.

Hopefully "General Disaster" will also be a "one-term wonder".

Great to have his disastrous environmental plans summarized here.

Queenslanders really did not vote for this.

They were just outraged by the lies of the Bligh Government, and like Darth Vader the LNP knew how to use the hate for an even greater evil.

December 14, 2012 @ 4:12pm
by Carol Booth

Another to add to the list of environmental crosses is the LNP government's abandonment of the program to eradicate yellow crazy ants. This is likely to be devastating to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. See The government has abandoned environmental biosecurity programs in favour of a few agricultural priorities.

December 14, 2012 @ 6:27pm
by Mosaic

My god, we have to make sure we don't get this as a national approach to climate change and the environment, which is what will happen under a rAbbott led LNP federal government. If at all it willtake Qld decades to undo this environmental vandalism!.

December 15, 2012 @ 10:23am
by Rowan Barber

"The Greentape Reduction Act is the government’s flagship legislation,".......For the record, the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 was actually introduced into parliament in October 2011, by the Previous (Labor) Government. The Bill lapsed when the Queensland state election was called. The Newman Government re-introduced the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 into the 54th parliament on 29 May 2012. it is the threatened wind back of Federal regulations and amendments to the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and subsequent negotiations of bilateral arrangements between the Commonwealth and State Governments that scares the willies out of me.

December 15, 2012 @ 9:49pm
by Jonny Fishcakes

Where's the report on the othe 'minor' issues state governments might have to deal with? Wonder how the greens will do one that? And that in turn would have a bigger effect on how governments can deal with problems including environmental ones in the future.

December 16, 2012 @ 3:06am
by Dieter Koppen

Just keep on Campbell, everthing is better than the previous ALP government.
Keep on doing!

December 16, 2012 @ 10:56pm
by Sensible Steve

@Jonny Fishcakes obviously never actually read any of the Green Party's policies (no, listening to an LNP version of them doesn't count).

December 17, 2012 @ 7:12pm
by Bjelke Digconcrete

There are quite a few native species in local habitats before they are wholly depleted and used up. And we can concentrate tourism in the northern quarter of the reef, so Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay and surrounds can focus on digging and shipping and ports and construction. After all, we want to encourage competition, so trees and animals and citizens can look after themselves. Yes, I know it used to be a lot greener.

December 18, 2012 @ 11:28am
by John

You could tell the right-wing morons that they can't eat money but they wouldn't understand. It is the same mindset that would compel them to eat their own children to retain power. As it is they are already eating their kids' environmental future.

December 18, 2012 @ 3:53pm
by Patricia Julien

The article missed the new State government policy to allow significantly increased levels of heavy metals and other toxics into waterways from mine wastewater releases following "events" e.g. floods or heavy rainfall downpours that threaten overflow, spills or collapse of wastewater retaining levees for coal and gas mining projects. Such structures are being placed by mining companies adjacent to waterways to make releases even easier.
Bad news for downstream sensitive areas like the Burdekin Dam which supplies water to Townsville during droughts, and the Great Barrier Reef marine waters where heavy metals have been implicated in disease and depressed immune systems in green turtles.
Don't forget the Offset Hubs being set up in the Galilee and Bowen Coal Basins as a convenient place for massive coal mines to access biodiversity offsets for the thousands of hectares of native vegetation they plan to clear. No matter there is no research to show they prevent a net loss in biodiversity and it takes 240 years for some trees to grow, What will the species that depend on them do in the meantime? These offsets have no protection under the MIneral Resources Act for future mining.
Still no Environment Management Plan for the internationally significant Abbot Point Caley Valley Wetlands near Bowen which are at high risk of water and air pollution from massive coal stockpiles.

December 18, 2012 @ 4:08pm
by Bruce

Having witnessed 'Can-Do's' efforts at political spin and the dismantling of Brisbane City Council, I managed to escape Queensland just in time before he could continue to extend his efforts to turn Qld. into a train-wreck... I'm surprised it has taken the Nat. party members of the Qld LNP this amount of time to realise just how voiceless and impotent they have become under his divine rule and guidance. Campbell will probably start muttering about succession of Queensland from the Commonwealth just like the days of Jo... (until the next state of emergency)... Having watched the Japanese election outcome this weekend, it reminded me of one salient fact... not much of a choice if you happen to be a hapless voter in Queensland (or Japan). I'll return when sanity prevails.

December 18, 2012 @ 4:55pm
by Microseris

Liberals value money above all else and that is all there is to it. Do not get between a Liberal and a bucket of money.

December 19, 2012 @ 7:15am
by Justin Smyrk

Its a sad state(geographically and conditionally) that Labour have left people in. With the LNP the next best (or a little better than the worst) choice for voters, good environmental policy was always going to be the last kid picked for the LNP team.

Campbell Newman is in his rush to show people that he can develop things bigger and faster than other politicians. He will have none of those pesky environmental laws standing in the way of his projects to 'advance' QLD, and if they do, he'll get rid of them!

The financial disasters the new toll roads are turning out to be are a great example of over development that Queenslanders, by the looks of it, didn't want or need.

The natural environment, peoples environmental concerns and long term climate change will have to take a back seat to his ego I'm afraid.

Great article Sarah-Jane

December 19, 2012 @ 11:44am
by Ray Oliver

Mr Can Do needs to be kicked out and replaced and his Party will undoubtedly
be removed at the next Election -- Neither will come too soon

December 19, 2012 @ 4:38pm
by FPA von Dreger

Premier Campbell's stance on the environment sort of reminds me of American Attorney General John Ashcroft's position on the matter: Ashcroft believed that since Armageddon and the End of the World is coming very soon, we might as well use up any and all the natural resources that we can -- as fast as we can -- for we haven't got much time left anyway ! !

An "interesting position" one might say -- but total insanity from the more rational point of view !

December 20, 2012 @ 2:32am
by John

Campbell should probably consider finding a substitute for the tourism pillar. Queensland's great natural beauty is a major drawcard for domestic and international tourists, not the cities, and certainly not the urban sprawl of the south-east. And let's face it, the climate in much of mainland Australia is actually pretty good, so the sun alone is unlikely to draw people to that state.

December 20, 2012 @ 11:23pm
by Karen Warne

My biggest problem with our political system is that "leaders" are voted in, often out of despair from the past rather than faith in the future, allowed to cause any damages to our land they see fit, are voted out again out of despair, but never held accountable for the damages they've caused while they are in. Peoples lives are shattered on a whim, environments destroyed forever, and no accountability? Time for an overhaul of the system.

December 21, 2012 @ 8:41am
by David (Sydney)

@Justin.. the state was not that sad.. few people remember that the cumulative effect of a couple of natural disasters ruined any chance of the economy 'looking' healthy. And this is what Can't-Do played upon. The ALP was a valid option, they needed time to recover from things outside their control.

Now... it's going to take decades to repair the damage this one term will do, if some of it can ever be repaired. It's so distressing to watch this train wreck happening knowing the damage that will be left behind. Can't-Do's damage isn't limited to just the environment, he is putting back families, economy, HIV prevention and care, regional health etc into the dark ages. And his job cuts are really going to be felt in the next Govt term as well.. so he'll blame the ALP (who hopefully will return) for the destruction he put in place.

Honestly, I thought Govts were in the 'community' business, not the coal business. Isn't that supposed to be left to private enterprise?

December 21, 2012 @ 8:45am
by Rik

Hats off to the fossil fuel industry. Not only have they convinced a large proportion of people that climate change is a hoax. They've actually gone one step further and implied that any action feeds a one world government threat to your freedom.
Yes. The largest corporations on the planet have actually convinced people that moves to sustainable power sources, that in many cases mean a lifetime of free power, are not in your best interests.
I will now sit back and wait for the comments that renewable energy cannot supply base load power. A myth that was destroyed in practice decades ago. Or that jobs are more important (than the planet ?!), whilst ignoring Germany's rapid deployment of solar, that employs more people there than it's car and fossil fuel industry combined. Or that China needs to act, the biggest manufacturer of solar cells in the world that installs more renewable energy in a week than the west does in a year.
Right wing governments consistently roll back incentives to provide your own power and get off the fossil fuel gravy train. So you tell me. Where's the real conspiracy?

January 16, 2013 @ 1:45pm
by shane

Lucky he is not Premier of his native born state ,hey? Meanwhile 5th generation queenslanders lament the line that Spain shares Queenslands international credit rating. Where is that Bligh bastard now?

January 19, 2013 @ 3:45pm
by silentnomore

Congratulations to conservation leaders for coming out! I have watched in silent horror as the full measure of this government's destructive intent has been rolled out, to a seemingly indifferent public. What this article failed to mention was the Newman government's declared intention to return 875000ha of protected areas to mining, logging or farming - as a start! These same protected areas are Queensland's contribution to the national climate protection endeavour, and yet Queensland comes in well below the United Nations' accepted target for protected areas, a target set with the future of the planet in mind. It is truly sinister that the Newman government can be concerned about graffiti in the suburbs, but are not troubled about trashing our climate system. Reports from the International Panel on Climate Change and the CSIRO make it abundantly clear that the planet can no longer afford governments like this.

January 23, 2013 @ 12:11pm
by Hopeful

Queenslanders - you voted Rumplestilskin in with a landslide, so live with the consequences. The Smart State did not learn sufficiently from the Bjelke-Petersen disaster.

February 6, 2013 @ 2:44am
by Dale of Brisbane

The LNP won Just over 60% of the two-party preferred but has about 85% of the seats in Qld. Might be time to look at reintroducing an upper house?

March 21, 2013 @ 9:31pm
by Friederike Eberhard

That something like this is even possible in this day and age is unbelievable. I am from Germany which is a tiny country compared to QLD and very densely populated, yet there is more nature and remnant vegetation left compared to the total land area than in QLD. Germany is a successful country economically and in it's agriculture and it is successful in protecting its nature. These two things go hand in hand. This is a step back into the dark ages and a step closer to our own destruction. I weep for all the animals and plants that again have to die and suffer from human hands and have no future on this planet. But yeah, Campbell can drive his four wheel drive anywhere he wants, that's something. If in the past I ever considered voting for this party I now regret it with all my heart. This is not only environmental vandalism, Campbell Newmann should be held responsible for destroying the future of our children and grandchildren and all further generations. Is this democracy?? I want to leave QLD.

May 26, 2013 @ 7:22am
Show previous 26 comments
by Ruth Lipscombe

Have you noticed that since the 'real Campbell Newman 'emerged it is near impossible to find anybody willing to admit they voted for the LNP?
In hindsight Anna Bligh's Labor Government was close to perfect when compared to this mob!

July 10, 2013 @ 6:57pm
by Steve of cleveland

It seems Cando has let go of the wheel anyway. The views of the Deputy Premier seem closer to the direction of this Government and his view is that of a true believer ..... In the glory days of pre Fitzgerald when the "national" order prevailed.

August 10, 2013 @ 6:51am
by Robyn

Running a little late, but I've just read this article (13/09). I thought when following the election the environment would need an abbot-proof fence, but that's not enough, it also needs a rabid-proof fence! And it's not the animals who are insane and dangerous! My god, are they trying to destroy Queensland? The very things that made Qld what it is (or rather was), agriculture, the environment, the Barrier Reef and tourism are on a rapid and short ride to extinction. Goodbye tourists, who wants to visit posh bridges, freeways and the results of mining. I spent my growing up years in south east Queensland, but I don't think I'll be returning.

September 13, 2013 @ 1:03pm
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