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Larissa's Parliamentary Blog-October 2011 sittings

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Larissa Waters 28 Oct 2011

Parliamentary Blog – October 2011

Hi everyone,

This third blog covers the October sittings – which saw my threatened species Bill introduced, my first Estimates and the first steps towards a carbon price!

The carbon pricing package passed the lower house on October 12 – the start of Australia tackling climate change for the good of our common future and all the other creatures we share this unique planet with. (We are set to debate the carbon price bills in the Senate in the November sittings – I can’t wait! It will be the greatest honour to be part of the Parliament that acts on climate change.)

While the House was tackling climate change, in the Senate the Greens were tackling one of our other major environmental issues - biodiversity decline. On Thursday 13 October I introduced the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (Emergency Listing) Amendment Bill, which provides for emergency protection of newly discovered species and ecological communities.

The impetus for this bill was the recent discovery of two new species, a crab and freshwater shrimp, on a small area of Cape York which Rio Tinto wants to mine for bauxite. Our laws don’t let the federal environment minister consider the impacts of the mine on these species unless they are listed as federally threatened – which usually take 2 years. That won’t help the crab or shrimp who need protection now! My Bill would have them put on the threatened species list immediately, so the minister has to consider the mine’s impact on these critters when deciding whether to approve or refuse federal permission, then reviewed after 12 months to see if they still belong on that list.

I’m hopeful of the government backing this bill since they have committed to emergency listing of threatened species in their reform package due next year. Sadly this commitment is one of the few bright spots in the government’s otherwise dismal reform package designed primarily to turn our environment into a ‘one stop shop’ for business.

The second week of the fortnight was Senate Estimates, one of the three annual occasions when the senior Departmental officials are subject to questioning by Senators – an important accountability mechanism. I asked about a whole range of issues (see the transcripts and videos under Latest from Parliament on my website for more), including:

  • What sense is there in approving Clive Palmer’s huge coal mine over Queensland’s Bimblebox Nature Refuge, which was part-purchased with federal money?
  • What are the feds and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority doing about the Gladstone environmental crisis in our Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area?
  • What are the feds doing about the international world heritage committee’s concern that Queensland is threatening the world heritage status of the Reef by allowing massive LNG ports, and why are they letting all the other coal port applications go through before starting a ‘strategic assessment’ of developments on the Queensland coast?
  • Why is the federal chemicals regulator taking so long to ban Diuron, the most toxic herbicide to our Reef, with only a Clayton’s ‘suspension’ after 9 years of review?
  • Is CSIRO’s independence compromised by taking $10million from one of the biggest CSG companies to research groundwater impacts?

You’ll see many questions were taken on notice, and I’ve submitted lots more questions on notice to the Departments, due for response by February. I’ve got 5 straight weeks in Canberra coming up (an extra one for President Obama’s visit), so stay tuned for an update after that!

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