The NSW Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) has admitted it helped develop a strategy to block development of new coal mines in Australia.
It is the NSW EDO that led a court case which has seen approvals for the Adani Carmichael coal mine in Queensland further delayed.
On ABC's "Lateline" program last night, NSW EDO Executive Director Jeff Smith admitted his organisation advised in development of a strategy document called “Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom”.
The policy outlines a strategy to “disrupt and delay” key projects and infrastructure.
Mr Smith said on “Lateline” last night that NSW EDO and Queensland EDO provided legal advice on the strategy document.
“Well, that document was prepared by a number of campaigning groups. EDO NSW and EDO Queensland are not campaigning groups,” Mr Smith told interviewer Tony Jones. “We were at that meeting because we were requested to be there and we provided the legal advice on that document. As part of that legal advice, we made it clear that you can only ever bring proceedings if you have a meritorious basis for doing so.”
Queensland-based Senator Matt Canavan has reacted angrily to the actions of environmental activists trying to block the development of coal mines in the State.
“At a time when regional Queensland desperately needs more jobs, activists are deliberately frustrating efforts to provide those jobs,” Senator Canavan said. “It’s a disgrace.
“Projects like Adani’s Carmichael coal mine and related infrastructure would provide thousands of jobs directly and indirectly in Central and North Queensland, yet environmental activists are deliberately trying to prevent the project going ahead.
“They are keeping kids out of work in Queensland. I will do everything I can to fight those activists and create more employment for Queensland communities, families and kids.”
Senator Canavan said youth unemployment was a serious issue in regional Queensland.
“Unemployment amongst 15 to 24-year-olds is a serious issue affecting the fabric of family life in Queensland regional centres. For example, in my home town on Rockhampton, youth unemployment is 14%, even higher in Mackay at 14.4%, across the outback it is over 15%, in Townsville it’s almost 20% and in Cairns it tops 22%. Those are terrible statistics.
“Regional communities that would directly benefit from the Carmichael mine and other developments in the Galilee Basin include Alpha, Bowen, Clermont, Emerald, Mackay, Moranbah, Rockhampton and Townsville.
“Unemployment has a massive impact on the lives of young Queenslanders. Yet, the NSW EDO – ensconsed in offices in the heart of inner-city Sydney – is helping to delay a project that can provide jobs these kids need.”
Senator Canavan said the “Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom” document spelt out a strategy to disrupt and delay key projects and infrastructure, while gradually eroding public and political support for the industry, and continually building the power of the (anti-coal) movement.
“The six elements to the strategy are: disrupt and delay key infrastructure; constrain the space for mining; increase investor risk; increase costs; withdraw the social license of the coal industry; and build a powerful movement (to oppose the coal industry).
“Legal challenges in the courts are an essential element in this anti-coal campaign. In fact, the strategy document says the very first priority is to, quote, ‘ … get in front of the critical projects to slow them down in the approval process’.
“The document continues: ‘This means lodging legal challenges to five new coal port expansions, two major rail lines and up to a dozen of the key mines. This will require significant investment in legal capacity. While this is creating much needed breathing space, we need to continue to build the movement and mobilize to create pressure on politicians and investors alike’.
“If you are a young job-seeker or a family breadwinner out of work, this document makes chilling reading.
“This is one of the reasons I fully support our Government’s current plan, announced by Attorney-General George Brandis, to protect Australian jobs by removing from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) the provision that allows activists to engage in vigilante litigation to stop important economic projects."