Andrew Bartlett on Oquist and the EPBC
The Howard Government may have made the wilful ignoring of reality an everyday requirement in political debate these days, but it is still disappointing when his opponents are so eager to score political points that they are prepared to show the same blithe disregard for the facts. Sadly, Ben Oquist’s piece in Crikey smearing WWF […]
Oquist's so-called “notorious Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) legislation” was supported by environment groups other than WWF, most tellingly the peak environment groups in both Tasmania and my own state of Queensland. As Democrat environment spokesperson at the time, I can categorically state that it was the support of these groups, and not the views of WWF, that was crucial to my supporting the legislation.
The EPBC legislation negotiated by the Democrats dramatically increased the scope for the Commonwealth to intervene in environmental matters, and, most importantly, provided for the first time the ability for the public – including environment groups – to undertake legal action to require them to comply with aspects of the law. Oquist's Howard-like reinterpretation of reality somehow manages to portray this as “scrapping Commonwealth environmental powers and ceding them back to the states”.
The grossly misleading statement is also made that the EPBC “exempted logging from the provisions of the Act and included no capacity to control greenhouse gases,” deliberately omitting the crucial fact that previous environment laws also never contained these powers or provisions. This dishonest portrayal of the content and impact of the EPBC has occurred from the day the legislation was passed, as has the vilification of any person or group that supported it (another tactic that clearly John Howard is not alone in adopting). WWF continues to suffer for this supposed ‘sin'.
As I have mentioned in Crikey before, Oquist's comments are particularly shameless given Greens Leader Bob Brown has been running a major publicity and fundraising campaign for his court case aimed at stopping logging in Tasmania's Wielangta Forest, a campaign I support, using the very same "notorious" EPBC Act that has supposedly been responsible for the destruction of the forests.
It's not my role to defend WWF, but it is hard to see how anybody could honestly portray their CEO Greg Bourne's quotes in The Australian as “supporting uranium mining”. They simply recognised an indisputable reality – that uranium mining in Australia occurs and will continue to occur whoever is in government. Of course, acknowledging reality can often offend fundamentalists, which explains why a few of them have grasped the opportunity to become outraged.