Federal resources minister Matt Canavan backs Queensland bid to reject scientific reports that interfere with mines

Senator Matt Canavan has thrown his support behind Queensland LNP’s proposal to reject scientific reports (Photo by Tracey Nearmy, Getty Images)
  • Queensland Liberal and National Party (LNP) MPs are being urged to establish an “Office of Science Quality Assurance”, which would assess every scientific report handed to government and decide whether to approve or reject them, after a members’ resolution was passed at its state conference.
  • The proposal was notably endorsed by attending LNP senators Matt Canavan (currently the federal minister for resources) and George Christensen, according to reports by The Brisbane Times.
  • Canavan has confirmed to Business Insider Australia that he believes that mining opponents shouldn’t be able to use ‘neverending scientific studies’ to stop mining projects, citing the example of the Adani Carmichael coal mine.
  • Other proposals made at the Queensland conference include circumventing bans on accepting political donations from property developers as well as winding back abortion laws.

The Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP) has a lot to think about after its three-day state convention over the weekend.

On Sunday, members passed a motion to establish a so-called “Office of Science Quality Assurance”, according to reports by the Brisbane Times. The proposed body would be given the ability to scrutinise scientific reports and reject them before they made it to the government.

The motion was supported by the federal resources minister Matt Canavan who was present at the conference and quoted as saying, “To me, it just makes common sense for there to be contestability in this space – science only moves forward when we can challenge ideas.”

It’s a curious move for a political party that traditionally believes in small government to vote in favour of creating a new government body from thin air. While motions passed at the convention are non-binding on party MPs, they do send a clear signal as to the values of their base.

In Queensland, the desire for a more conservative government was evident in the May federal election, which saw swings towards the LNP and away from the Labor party in all but three seats. Certainly, the approval of the Adani Carmichael coal mine proved a divisive issue, pitting regional Queenslanders in need of jobs against metropolitan voters concerned with climate change and the environmental impact of the project.

Canavan’s support for such a body comes less than a week after fellow Nationals MP and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce took to Facebook to make his own stand against climate science.

Speaking to Business Insider Australia afterwards, Canavan said he believed science shouldn’t be left to dictate mining approvals.

“Far too many resource projects in Queensland have been delayed for political purposes, with never-ending scientific studies being the preferred weapon of choice. Rigorous, accurate and timely scientific studies are critical to the success of resource projects which return enormous benefits to our nation, but as the Adani saga has clearly shown, when these processes are subject to the political whims of the day, the entire system breaks down,” he said in a written statement.

“Existing and future jobs are put at risk, the stability of the resources is jeopardized and questions of sovereign risk arise. This is unacceptable to the Australian public.”

It’s unclear on what grounds “Office of Science Quality Assurance” would reject a scientific study provided to the government. Former state LNP minister Andrew Cripps, who moved the motion, said it was necessary to fight restrictions which seek to limit farming and mining runoff into the Great Barrier Reef.

“We want this passed so our parliamentary members can point to this policy and say this is how we are responding to the challenge of people with alternative views to make sure we’ve got good data to back up rational decision-making,” Mr Cripps said.

The same convention also saw members vote to create a “diamond” tier of party membership so as to allow property developers to donate to the party, despite developers being banned from doing so. Members also moved to pressure MPs to wind back Labor’s state abortion laws.

With Queensland being pivotal in the recent election, and Canavan having signalled his support, the voices of the state’s LNP members may carry some weight in Canberra.

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