Independent MPs furious as government rams environmental law changes through lower house

The Morrison government has been branded a "bully in action" for pushing its environment law changes through the lower house without following usual process.

Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, February 10, 2020.

Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, February 10, 2020. Source: AAP

Independent MPs are furious with the Morrison government for throwing due process out the window and ramming controversial environmental laws through the lower house.

Crossbench MP Zali Steggall flagged amendments to the bill but the government refused to allow them to be voted on.

Instead, the coalition used its numbers to shove the bill through the lower house on Thursday night.

Ms Steggall described the government as a "bully in action".

"The PM and every coalition MP made a mockery of due process for legislation and bulldozed environmental and water protection," she said.

"And they were laughing while doing it. This is how they represent you. If you care, contact your MP."

The changes to the national environment protection laws pave the way for states to take over approvals.

The states would have to abide by a set of national environment standards, which have not been developed.

The changes are in response to an interim review conducted by former competition watchdog Graeme Samuel.

Professor Samuel also recommended installing an independent environmental umpire, but the government has rejected that.

Independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie says the changes will water down environment protection.

"(The bill) hands decision-making to state and territory governments who have shown time and time again to be conflicted and incapable of protecting the environment," he said.

"The passage of the amendment through the House of Representatives was also a chilling demonstration of the government's complete contempt for democracy.

"Most members of the house were prevented from speaking, and foreshadowed amendments were blocked without debate. The government acted again like an elected dictatorship."

Environment Minister Sussan Ley was quick to defend the changes after outrage over the process.

"There will be more reforms to follow," she said.

"We will develop strong Commonwealth-led national environmental standards which will underpin new bilateral agreements with state governments."

The bill is likely to be referred to a Senate committee for scrutiny, pumping the brakes on its progress.

Labor and the Greens oppose the legislation.

2 min read
Published 4 September 2020 at 2:00pm
Source: AAP, SBS