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Greens: Auditor General’s Report Shows Mining Companies Can get Away With Flouting Environmental Conditions

Photo :Rudy Tiben

The Greens have highlighted the fact that the Auditor General’s report on environmental protection shows the federal environment department is under-resourced and failing to enforce environmental conditions.

Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said “The Abbott Government constantly approves environmentally destructive projects claiming that all of the damage will be offset by environmental conditions, but the report shows those conditions often aren’t enforced,”

The Auditor General’s report shows the Environment Department doesn’t have enough staff to enforce conditions. The Abbott Government has made cuts to the Department by cutting 129 people from the division responsible for enforcement.

Senator Larissa Waters said these cuts make for an incredibly alarming prospect for Australia’s significant environmental treasures, such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Kimberley and Cape York, which are all under threat from mining projects.

Many projects such as the Abbot Point coal port expansion in the Great Barrier Reef, have been approved with conditions requiring the proponent to provide a management plan on how they will manage environmental risks.

“The report shows that the department could only provide evidence that it had checked the about 60 per cent of management plans.” Commented the Senator

The fact that only 60% of the management plans are checked means that those plans that aren’t properly scrutinised could be leading to significant environmental damage.

It gets worse when it comes to compliance monitoring. The report found that most compliance monitoring is done by phone or email. Big mining companies are being trusted to provide accurate information, without on-site inspections.

“The big mining companies are getting away with flouting environmental conditions, without the departmental capacity or political will to stop them,” Senator Waters said.

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