Senior Labor figures are urging the Gillard government to intervene to protect national parks from state government-backed grazing and logging.
Four party stalwarts – ex-premiers Joan Kirner and Carmen Lawrence, former NSW environment minister Bob Debus and former Queensland environment minister Rod Welford – have called on the Commonwealth to give itself powers to stop environmentally damaging projects in national parks.
The group said the ALP had a proud record of creating national parks that needed to be protected.
”Labor must take the current opportunity to strengthen the national environment laws,” they said in a joint statement.
They called for the introduction of a ”trigger” under environment law that would allow the Commonwealth to block intensive projects in parks.
They also want the government to remove any prospect that Commonwealth powers to approve projects under federal environment law would be delegated to the states – a plan previously proposed by the Gillard government before being later dumped and still backed by the federal Coalition.
Mr Debus said he found it ”quite astounding that we should be sitting here today worrying that state governments in Australia are engaged in an all-out assault on national parks”.
”Many of us had thought the question of national parks had been settled for some time, but instead there has been the most extraordinary attack. I don’t think we have seen anything like it in 50 years,” he said.
He blamed the rise of National Party influence in Coalition state governments and a new ideological wave that viewed any environment regulation as unjustified restriction of the market.
He said the Liberal Party – which he conceded did not have a brutal anti-environment attitude – had just stepped aside and ”let the Nationals rip”.
The Greens have already announced that they intend to introduce a bill into the Senate that would make national parks a matter of national significance under environment law.
The statement was organised by ALP ginger group the Labor Environment Action Network, known as LEAN.
A co-convener of LEAN, Felicity Wade, said members of the group in every state and territory would call federal Labor MPs this weekend to urge them to support greater protection of national parks.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said: ”There are various views about when the federal government should intervene and what the legal frame work should be.”
”But be in no doubt as Australia’s Environment Minister, I believe the recent reversal from John Howard’s approach to what state and federal Liberals are now doing is appalling vandalism and wrong.”
It is believed Cabinet will consider on Monday what action to take, if any, to increase the federal government’s control of parks.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.