Senator Hanson-Young (South Australia): Environment Senate Speech I move: That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister representing the Prime Minister (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Hanson-Young today relating to the environment.
I asked Senator Cormann about the government’s plans to rush through legislation that is ultimately going to weaken Australia’s environmental laws and to make it easier for big mining corporations and big gas companies to continue to destroy Australia’s precious environment and to put in harm’s way our native wildlife and animals.
We know that the environment is already suffering greatly. It is in a huge state of decline. We know climate change, land clearing, pollution are pushing our environment and our natural world to the brink. And what do we have from this government? More ways to make more money for these companies while destroying our environment, and it’s being done under the cover of COVID-19. I ask the minister: why on earth would we want to hand powers over in the states without any form of strong environmental standards?
We know that big intervention from the Commonwealth government, important intervention from the Commonwealth government, has actually saved some of the most iconic parts of Australia’s environment—the Great Barrier Reef, the Franklin. Whaling stopped in Western Australia because the federal government stepped in, when state governments were failing to protect our precious species and our environment. We would have oil rigs on the Great Barrier Reef, the Franklin would be dammed and whaling may still be going on in Western Australia if the federal government at the time had not intervened. Real leaders like former Prime Minister Bob Hawke and former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser stood up for their nation’s environment, not like these cowards over here on the red benches, who do nothing but hand over more and more ways for big corporations to destroy our environment in the name of profit.
I’m not going to take much of what Minister Cormann has said seriously, because this guy doesn’t really know anything about protecting the environment. Minister Cormann doesn’t really care about the environment. I was interested to read in the new book by Marion Wilkinson, The Carbon Club, that Mr Cormann’s experience with the environment was huddling together on a weekly basis with Cory Bernardi—remember him?—to destroy carbon-protecting, environment-protecting legislation in this place. Minister Cormann has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to looking after the environment. This government simply don’t care. They can’t be trusted, they don’t care and they’re trying to make an easy path for big corporations to keep polluting, to keep mining, to keep logging and to keep making profits off the back of Australia’s environment and the habitat of our wildlife.
I asked a question in relation to Rio Tinto. The reason I asked that is because the head of Rio Tinto is currently in Australia. He just arrived two weeks ago. He’s been through quarantine. I was listening today about all the Australians still stranded overseas trying to get home. Well, we know one person who managed to get into Australia. What is he doing here? He’s meeting with the traditional owners in Western Australia who own the caves that his company blew up. He’s having to apologise because we didn’t have laws that were strong enough to stop this environmental vandalism. So if there’s anyone in this country right now who knows why we need stronger environmental laws, you’d think it would be the head of Rio Tinto. Why on earth would we trust that this government are going to do the right thing by our country’s environment? Their track record is atrocious. I call on Rio Tinto to stand with the Greens and to argue that there needs to be stronger environmental protections and to declare their opposition to this push from the government, because they, of all people, know firsthand what happens when there aren’t proper protections in place. You know what happens? Big companies blow up the ancient Aboriginal heritage and destroy our environment.
Source: Transcript and Image Parliament of Australia Website