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 and taking another shot at the
Democrats (yesterday, item 13), demonstrates that this trait is not confined to the
Coalition.

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.