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Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2015

It is good to see that I finally agree with something the member for Moreton has said. He is a lover of Paul Kelly as am I, so isn't that nice to find something we both agree on? I am pleased to rise to speak to the House today on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2015.

The Abbott government is building a strong, prosperous and sustainable economy for a safe and secure Australia. Since coming to office there have been 12,500 new jobs created in Durack, which is about a quarter of the new jobs in WA since the government came to office, and there have been more than 335,000 new jobs created in Australia since the government was elected.

Projects create jobs, and the government and I want the highest environmental standards to apply to these new projects. That is why I will not sit idly by and watch jobs, investment and our economy be threatened by activist litigation. This bill will protect Australian jobs by removing the provision which allows green activists to get involved in litigation to merely frustrate, in many cases, the development of important economic projects in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

I repeat, the government does want the highest environmental standards. I personally want the environment to be in better condition tomorrow than it is today. We respect the right for people to take matters to court; however, I do not agree with people using the courts to frustrate a process in pursuit of a political agenda.

The era of vocal minorities must end, so must the waste of taxpayers' precious money on policing these often neurotic protests which are unproductive and choking the Australian economy.

It is worth repeating that this bill will protect Australian jobs, something which is in this government's DNA. This bill should make a substantial saving in reduced litigation and increased investment security for business, something which those opposite will never understand and is more the pity. The previous Labor government, as we all know, left us a legacy of gross debt which is projected to rise to $660 billion. Suffice to say, those opposite have been financially reckless and have no idea when it comes to managing the country's finances. Debt and poor financial management are in Labor's DNA.

Section 487 of the EPBC Act is currently a welcome mat for radical activists who have a political, not a legal, interest in development to use aggressive litigation tactics to interrupt vital job-creating projects. These radicals are impacting on the country's economic growth and our jobs—jobs for young Australians, jobs for older Australians. I call on the Labor Party to leave the politics at the door and join the government in protecting Australian jobs. Let us see whether Labor are as committed to Australian jobs as they say or whether they will buddy up once again with the Greens.

Importantly, the proposed amendment will not affect local agricultural producers and others with legitimate proprietary, economic, financial or other direct interests. They can rest assure that their voices will be heard and the courts will be available to assist with the protection of their rights, and of course that is the way it ought to should be. The government will repeal this provision to return the law to the usual position where only someone with a legitimate interest in commencing legal action has standing to do so—someone who merely wants to prosecute a political cause does not. This bill is part of the federal government's long-term economic plan.

Monday of this week marked the second year since our government was elected to office. The people of Durack regularly tell me that they are pleased that this government is a breath of fresh air after six years of some of the most dysfunctional government in the Western world. Female workforce participation is at record levels, with over 171,000 more women in jobs at the time of the election. This has filtered through to Durack, I am very pleased to say, where women from around the electorate often tell me about a new job they have secured since our government was formed. The confidence which has been instilled in the business community has been sound, with a record 223,013 new companies registered last year. We have delivered tax cuts for small business, reducing the rate to the lowest it has been since 1967.

We are backing hardworking families through lower electricity prices by having abolished the carbon tax. We are backing seniors by providing certainty on superannuation. We are backing farmers with new tax write-offs for fencing, water infrastructure and fodder storage. We are backing homebuyers with interest rates at a four-decade low. We are backing job seekers with jobactive, which will assist jobseekers find not just a job but a career. We are backing northern Australia through the northern Australia white paper with a plan for sustainable development through better roads and other infrastructure.

This government have a record which the opposition could only dream of, and that is why I call on the Labor Party to join the government in protecting Australian jobs and support this bill. The Abbott coalition government want the highest environmental standards to apply, but we will not allow jobs, investment and our economy to be threatened by activist litigation. Business confidence and conditions are into positive territory, as Dun & Bradstreet said on 1 September:

… we’re seeing robust levels of optimism across all sectors in the … business community.

And they said, 'Retail trade is 4.2 per cent higher than it was 12 months ago.' The proof is in the pudding, and I am pleased to say unemployment has dropped to 6.2 per cent, down one per cent compared to this time last year. According to the Australian Financial Security Authority, bankruptcies are at a 20-year low—more good news.

There is an increasing trend by green groups and other organisations to use the court system to sabotage important economic projects. Their obstructionist behaviour is sacrificing tens of thousands of Australian jobs.

The Abbott government want to build on this strong economic footprint and build more regional jobs, especially in Durack, and that is why this bill is essential. The federal government have applied the highest environmental standards since coming to office. But, by doing that, we have still managed to halve the time for environmental approvals and we have cleared the backlog of projects that were left to languish by those sitting opposite. This government's pragmatic approach to the environment since being elected has created 3,000 new jobs for young Australians aged between 17 and 24 across over 350 projects throughout Australia.

Last week, I was very happy to be able to meet a vibrant, dedicated group of the Green Army who are currently working on restoring the Chapman and Greenough estuaries in the mid-west. This team is responsible for protecting, restoring and celebrating the significant national environmental and heritage values of these regionally significant waterways. The project employs nine people and goes to the heart of one of my key priorities, which is to give young people in my electorate a job. The Green Army is just one element of the government's environmental platform, which has approved 176 projects around Australia, valued at more than $1 trillion.

The people of Durack are a resilient, hardworking community—as you know Acting Deputy Speaker Broadbent because I have told you this before—and they are particularly frustrated by vocal minorities. It is not news but there have been some job losses in WA's north, and this government wants to ensure the right legislative environment, as do I, to encourage other resources projects to get out of the ground and create more jobs for the people of Durack. While I welcome people to exercise their democratic right to protest, I do not support the obstructionist behaviour, which unjustifiably wastes time and taxpayers' money and, more importantly, developers' money and, ultimately, Australian jobs.


Vocal minorities have been ruling the airways for far too long, sometimes for no other reason than to just be adversarial, and regrettably the media gets sucked in every single time.

Currently under section 487 of the EPBC Act, radical activists who have a political interest can and do disrupt important projects, and this disruption is increasing. Activists themselves have declared that their objective is to use the courts for the political purpose of stopping developments. Alarmingly, we have learnt that one green group in their document, 'Stopping the Australian coal export boom', declared litigation as a strategy to delay and disrupt, and to reduce the financial viability of key infrastructure projects, including ports, rail and mines. And no doubt many of those potential projects would be in my electorate of Durack. This bill will repeal this provision to return to the acceptable position where somebody with a legitimate interest in commencing a legal action has standing to do so but somebody who merely wants to prosecute a political cause does not.

I stand here commending this bill not just as a Liberal but also as a lawyer. I also stand here commending this bill as someone who has worked in business development in the resources sector. I 'get' jobs, you 'get' jobs and the Abbott government 'gets' jobs as well. This bill is an element of the Abbott government's long-term economic plan, which supports jobs. The bill will disallow vocal minorities from engaging in vigilante time-wasting. Here is an opportunity for the opposition to join the government in protecting Australian jobs—existing jobs, but also the jobs of the future. I commend the bill to the House.  

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