When the Abbott government announced last month that it planned to change the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) federal attorney-general George Brandis said the Act “provides a red carpet for radical activists” who engaged in “sabotage” and “vigilante litigation”.
Sydney radio host Alan Jones is not the sort of person most consider one of the “radical green activists” the minister rounded on in announcing the changes.
Many regard Jones is a good friend of the government, so appearing in a 60-second TV ad in which he says “the latest move by the Abbott government puts at risk not just our environment but our very democracy,” is an extraordinary intervention by the broadcaster.
The government announced the changes after the Federal Court overturned approval Adani’s Carmichael mine in Queensland because federal environment minister Greg Hunt had failed to properly consider advice about two threatened species – the yakka skink and the ornamental snake – on the coal mine site.
The government argues that the Howard-era legislation should be changed so that only those directly affected by a project can appeal to the courts. Alan Jones has a different view, starting the ad by saying “I may live nowhere near the Liverpool Plains or the Great Barrier Reef. But I sure as hell am concerned they are protected.”
Crowdfunding over the weekend saw the ad go to air on Sky News today and it will continue to be broadcast as parliament sits this week.
The ad comes from the Lock the Gate Alliance, the farming lobby group that’s been campaigning against coal seam gas miners having access to their properties. Jones has been a long-standing supporter and his intervention creates another difficult frontline battle for the Abbott government, turning the Coalition supporters who are generally Jones’ listeners against the prime minister and other senior cabinet ministers on this issue.
As Jones says in the ad “It is quite simply unbelievable”.
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Phil Laird said Jones was putting the government “on notice”.
“The Federal Government wants to strip away the rights of communities to object to dangerous mining projects by ripping up our basic legal rights and putting national assets like the Liverpool Plains and Great Barrier Reef at risk,” he said.
“The Federal Government had seriously misjudged the depth of concern from farmers, mining-affected communities and the legal profession about law changes to restrict our legal rights.”
Jones doesn’t hold back in his views, citing the Great Barrier Reef as an example, saying unless it “happens to be in your backyard, you won’t have any legal grounds to oppose irresponsible actions of some mining companies.
“This legislative restriction is divisive, it isolates us, it means we’re not allowed to care,” he declares.
You can watch the ad below.
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