Dying with Dignity – Story Banner Event

Diane joined with Dying with Dignity WA and its supporters today to continue representing the countless Western Australians with personal reasons for supporting the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill. 

A 20-metre-long banner was unfurled in front of Parliament House, which included 288 testimonials from those with personal stories of suffering because voluntary assisted dying is not a lawful end of life choice. Diane hopes this will serve as a reminder that unnecessary delay in passing this legislation affects real people.

The longer Western Australians go without this legislation, the longer the suffering will continue.

Environment Court Legislation to Enhance Nature Protections

South West MLC Diane Evers will resume efforts this week to instigate a radical overhaul of state environmental protections, when she introduces the Environment Court Bill 2019 to Western Australian Parliament today.

Ms Evers has launched a concerted effort in recent weeks to effect positive changes on environmental legislation in WA and said she had observed too many systemic failings in her role as The Greens (WA)’s spokesperson for regional development to not act.

The establishment of a new expert court, independent of government, is aimed at reforming a current appeals system Ms Evers described as ‘failing people and the environment’. In determining applications, the Environment Court would be explicitly required to consider the public interest in its decision-making, with proceedings to be open to the public.

Ms Evers said judicial change would stop environmentally harmful projects from advancing development through a system that had become siloed and bureaucratic, festering a common strategy of development-by-stealth. These changes could be bolstered by the Court permitting fresh evidence to be presented that was not before an original decision-maker.

The introduction of this Bill precedes next week’s Second Reading in Parliament of the Rights of Nature and Future Generations Bill 2019, also introduced by Ms Evers last month.

Diane Evers is The Greens (WA) spokesperson for environmental portfolios such as forestry, fisheries & marine, wetlands and water. 

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“WA has a unique environmental appeals system that, unlike other Australian states, are not decided by a specialist independent tribunal or court.

“This system is clearly broken and is failing people and the environment — a common sense approach to the legal consideration of our environment must be found.

“Too often we see development pass through a convoluted and non-transparent bureaucratic process, which ends in the Minister determining the appeal – the same person in charge of making final decisions about these approvals.

“This Bill will reform the existing environmental appeals system through the creation of a new, independent and specialist body that acts as both a merits appeal tribunal and a court for judicial review applications under existing environmental legislation.

“These roles will be appointed by the Governor, keeping the Environment Court independent and free from undue political and administrative interference, with efficiency and efficacy of the utmost importance.

“Public interest would be of fundamental importance to the Environment Court, something that is not a requirement in the current environmental appeals system, which lacks these significant principles on which appeal decisions should rightly be made where the community is affected.

“The Court would also operate transparently, including through conducting public hearings — the current environmental appeals system is administered behind closed doors, excluding the public from participation and visibility over these key decisions.

“Current reforms of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA) proposed by the State Government do not address issues with environmental appeals, despite calls from many Western Australians for third-party appeal rights reform, including conservation groups, the National Environmental Law Association and the Law Society.

KEY POINTS:

  • The proposed Environment Court is to be made up of both judges, being legal practitioners of at least 8 years’ experience, and specialist members with experience in relevant fields such as planning, environmental science, cultural heritage and natural resource management.
  • The Environment Court would sit at an appointed Chief Judge’s direction.
  • Appeals against decisions of the Environment Court in relation to questions of law or judicial review proceedings would be made to the Supreme Court.
  • The Bill requires that the Court act according to equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of cases before it, rather than being bound by technicalities and legal forms which cause undue expense and delay, with most of the community unable to understand without significant legal assistance.
  • The Bill makes specific provision for people to appear before the Court with or without legal representation, maximising access to justice regardless of access to lawyers.

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Protecting Nature For Future Generations Is Only Right

South West MLC Diane Evers has said she is acting on a demand for change in Western Australian communities, after introducing a Bill to Parliament last month calling on the rights of the environment to be enshrined in law.

Ms Evers gave notice of the motion to introduce the Rights of Nature and Future Generations Bill 2019 in the WA Legislative Council on Thursday, October 31, with debate scheduled for November, once Parliament resumes

Offences proposed in the Bill would prohibit significant interference with these rights by governments and corporations, providing a recourse for nature and future generations both legally and in practical terms through restoration and payment of damages.

Ms Evers pointed to the failings of current legal and bureaucratic systems as rationale for the Bill and heralded it as a necessary step in protecting the environment for current and future generations of Western Australians, by giving a ‘voice to the voiceless’.

She also acknowledged the Bill was designed to recognise First Nations people’s special rights and responsibility to country, with a unique role considered in respect to those rights.

Under the Bill, strong penalties for significant violations would reflect the importance of the rights of nature, with corporations to potentially receive fines as high as $5 million and its directors able to be held personally liable for those same offences.

Individuals found to have significantly interfered with the rights of nature and future generations could be penalised through fines of up to $500,000 and/or five years in prison.

Ms Evers described this as a basic application of the polluter-pays principle, making those who profit from environmental harm accountable for the costs to the community and nature.

Under the Bill, the State Government would be required to take positive action to ensure that nature is able to flourish and be restored, allowing the people of Western Australia to enjoy clean air and water, a safe climate and the incredible and unique biodiversity that the state boasts.

Other jurisdictions such as New Zealand, India, Ecuador and Bolivia have moved in recent times to legally enshrine the rights of nature, while in the United States of America, Toledo city councillors drew up an emergency ‘bill of rights’ for Lake Erie in December 2018.

Ms Evers is The Greens (WA) spokesperson for environmental portfolios such as forestry, fisheries & marine, wetlands and water. 

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“At the heart of this of this Bill are people and the environment — the rights of nature and future generations should be held by all.

“Future generations deserve a healthy and safe environment, but human encroachment, fossil fuel mining, inappropriate development and a systemic bias towards capital gain have seen the rights — and systems — of nature eroded.

“Nature is a common and public asset to be enjoyed by the whole of the community, and this Bill provides a simple mechanism for communities to protect nature and themselves from irresponsible government and corporate action.

“Currently, our legal system gives a voice to corporations where nature, ecosystems, native species and future generations are voiceless.

“Failing to appreciate the laws of nature by only viewing the environment as property or as part of a bureaucratic process has created serious problems such as climate change.

“Governments should not have the power to sanction significant degradation of the environment, such as species extinctions as we saw in the approvals for the Yeelirrie uranium mine, over-allocation of water for coal mining in Collie, or uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions from the massive LNG projects in our North-West that are fuelling the climate crisis.

“Nature should be accorded the right to exist, flourish and be restored, and present and future generations of Western Australians provided a right to a healthy environment — including clean air and water.

“This Bill will enshrine the right for Western Australians to live in a safe climate system and maintain a vibrant community of life. 

“It is important also to give particular recognition to First Nations people through an additional right to be joined to any proceeding — we are privileged to live on this land, which has been so diligently cared for by its original custodians for over 60,000 years.

“These are necessary and basic bottom lines – indeed, it is difficult to see how the other elements of our legal system, society and economy could even function without these conditions.”

GET IN TOUCH: 

Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Victory for Victorian Forests as WA Waits Awhile

The Greens (WA) spokesperson for forests Diane Evers has applauded the Victorian Government’s decision to transition away from its native timber industry by 2030 and has called on the WA Labor Government to follow its counterpart’s leadership.

Ms Evers said it was clear native timber logging had lost its social licence, with the Forests Products Commission unable to prevent the industry from operating within existing regulations.

The comments came after multiple scandals in the Western Australian native timber industry during 2019, with the state’s two largest timber processing facilities under fire for accusations of wastage, ongoing investigations and one confirmed breach of contract.

Ms Evers drew comparison to existing Greens policy in WA as an example of a long-standing campaign to achieve a similar outcome to that seen in Victoria.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“The Andrews Government in Victoria has shown leadership by not only protecting the environment, but offering those within the existing industry a transition plan for the future.

“Given the smaller size of the industry in WA — only 500 people are directly employed by the native forest sector — there is no excuse for the State Government to not take action to protect the unique ecological health of our forests, while not leaving people behind.

“Recent examples in the South West Region show failings in the industry as a result of a regulatory system that is not fit-for-purpose.

“Last week Nannup Timber Processing had its marri supply contract cancelled because it sought profit over its contractual obligations, with a subsequent investigation into its jarrah contract now underway.

“Meanwhile in Greenbushes, the state’s largest sawmill Auswest has been selling thousands of tonnes of high-value jarrah to Simcoa for low-value use.

“These are WA’s two largest mills and their highest-value assets have become their state contracts, partly because they are not able to sell logs for the price it costs to process them.

“We must change how we look at our forests and start looking at forest regeneration, as more forests will help to stop the demise of our planet through climate change.

“I will continue to seek the end of logging and clearing of our native forests in Western Australia as well as the implementation of a rapid transition to plantations and farm forestry for the production of timber currently derived from native forests.”

For more information: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-06/native-timber-logging-in-victoria-to-be-phased-out-by-2030/

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070