Today in the House of Representatives we are debating the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bilateral Agreement Implementation) Bill 2014, which allows for delegation of the environmental approval powers from the Commonwealth to state and local governments. As my colleagues have outlined, this is bad policy.
It will hand over to state and local governments the approval powers for development in some of Australia's most pristine and significant environmental assets such as the Great Barrier Reef. It removes the accountability and consistency that exists in the current system.
The Commonwealth environmental assessment approval process sits within the Department of Environment located in Canberra. Many of the individuals who work in this area are my constituents. I want to pay tribute to these hard-working public servants because in the debate today several government members have mentioned that this legislation will allow greater access to expert scientific advice and community consultation, as if this were not already an essential part of the Commonwealth approval process.
I know some of the hard-working public servants who work in this area. They are specialist public servants. Many are environmental scientists. They are dedicated to ensuring the best result is achieved for the whole country. Their jobs are demanding, involving significant time away from their homes and loved ones. Not only is this bad policy but also in the debates today the government has shown that once again they have little respect for the expertise of our Commonwealth public servants or for the great work they do. The Abbott government has nothing but disdain for our public servants and has no interest in protecting Australia's environment for the future.