Evers: Government Consultation a Pipe Dream

South West MLC Diane Evers has accused the McGowan Government of leaving a Great Southern community high and dry on consultation, after Water Minister Dave Kelly delayed plans to visit the region and discuss the September announcement of a major climate change relief project.

Minister Kelly had announced Water Corporation plans to build a pipeline stretching more than 60 kilometres between Denmark and Albany to improve climate change-affected water supply in a move that was reportedly a surprise to the Denmark council and community.

After a request by the Shire of Denmark to Minister Kelly asking to visit the Shire and explain why the project was announced without local government consultation, a planned visit has been rescheduled to end of January — nearly five months after the project was announced.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for water, said moves to shore up water supply in the area were necessary but that the Government’s level of engagement, both with the Denmark community and the issue of climate change, was severely lacking.

The move comes at a time when numerous water deficiencies have been declared by the WA Government, most recently in the Shire of Lake Grace on Wednesday, December 4.

Ms Evers said the poor consultation and broader inaction on climate change was a symptom of a State Government unwilling to take the necessary steps to tackle the climate crisis and protect the livelihoods of regional Western Australians.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“Minister Kelly’s September media release made it sound like the Denmark community should be delighted to be receiving a ‘subsidy’ for their water supply — despite the Government failing to mention that the subsidy is funded by Royalties for Regions.

“This sleight-of-hand trick to cover the country water subsidy with Royalties for Regions allocations is nothing less than a cruel joke, one I will not let go unnoticed.

“To add insult to injury, the Minister has now delayed his expected visit to Denmark to late January, nearly five months since the September announcement.

“Not only has the Government made a decision to paper over the immediate impacts of climate change by funding a pipeline without community consultation, they didn’t even have the sense to discuss the project with the Shire of Denmark Council.

“Nor has the Albany Council been consulted, as taking water from the Albany aquifer will put more pressure on its community too.

“The McGowan Government quietly acknowledges the scientifically proven impacts of climate change, yet does nothing to significantly address its causes nor reduce emissions.

“Instead, climate change is treated in the political arena change as an abstract villain, as if humans have nothing to do with its creation.

“Why doesn’t this government pull its head out of the sand and do something to cut emissions instead, instead of opposing Net Zero Emissions targets proposed by the WA Greens that were backed by over 50 WA scientists?

“Instead, the Government’s recent issues paper on climate change shows just how obstinate they are in being effective.

“This is just another example of this Government’s disregard for people and the environmental catastrophe of climate change — and on top of the government’s inaction on emissions limits, it is a recipe for disaster.

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

Evers Pulps Government Claims amid Sale of Disgraced Mills

South West MLC Diane Evers has slammed the McGowan Government’s claim the WA native logging industry has “sustainability credentials” after it was announced an interstate company had purchased two disgraced South West mills.

The sale of Auswest Timbers’ Greenbushes mill and Nannup Timber Processing to Queensland-based company Parkside Timber has come after scandals at both mills in 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, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for forests, said it was clear native timber logging had lost its social licence, with the Forests Products Commission (FPC) unable to prevent the industry from operating within existing regulations. She also drew contrast to the Victorian Labor Government, who recently announced a transition plan to end native logging in the state.

Ms Evers contested statements attributed to a media release from Forestry Minister Dave Kelly, which proclaimed the strength of WA’s forestry industry, and said FPC’s own reporting of the industry’s health contradicted the Minister’s spin. The media release pointed to a forestry industry that supports more than 6,000 jobs, despite the native forest sector directly employing less than 500 people according to a 2017 FPC-funded report — many of those in transport roles only.

Recent annual report figures also revealed it costs more money to log WA native forests than is made in return, with an accounting write-down of $134 million to the value of these forests made as an amendment to the 17/18 financial year, avoiding an enormous current-year deficit.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“I am shocked and appalled that the McGowan Government would claim ‘sustainability’ and champion the sale of two saw mills that have contributed to the wanton destruction of our precious native forests.

“The economics of this industry do not stack up.

“This move lacks evidence and — more critically — common sense.

“At a time when Federal Labor Opposition is shamelessly attacking The Greens on climate, it is remarkable that this announcement can occur without irony.

“On one hand we are seeing the daily impacts of climate change, knowing that native forests play a critical role in the battle to preserve our environment, as well as protecting endangered native animal species and biodiversity.

“On the other hand, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, given this Government’s commitment to keeping its head in the sand on issues of ecological importance — with the environmental vandals in the Liquefied Natural Gas industry benefitting greatly in this regard.

“This is a missed opportunity for the McGowan Government to cancel these existing bad contracts and sensibly transition the WA forestry industry to a socially accepted, sustainable model focussed on plantation timber, something Victorian Labor had the sense to realise.

“Native forests are placed at catastrophic risk when there is a push for more logging and emphasis on selling timber overseas, especially if the Perth market can’t take it all up.

“Log sizes are ever-decreasing, there are ongoing investigations into the Nannup facility and — when over-stocked — we have seen high value timber sold for low-value use as charcoal.

“However, you can be certain the Government needs these businesses to remain viable in order to be able to proffer ‘more jobs’ to voters — even when the truth is that native forests are more valuable left standing.

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

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

Environmental Legislation Essential

South West MLC Diane Evers has welcomed a discussion paper on modernisation of environmental protection legislation released today by the Western Australian Government, describing it as a necessary measure for the state.

As The Greens (WA) spokesperson for regional development, Ms Evers said she had encountered numerous examples of state environmental protections being unsatisfactory since entering office as a member of the Legislative Council in 2017.

Ms Evers said protection of WA’s wildlife and biodiversity hotspots must be strengthened to prevent loss from human encroachment and climate change, and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) empowered to consider the systemic impacts of development projects.

According to Ms Evers, past EPA determinations were blind to other bureaucratic processes running in parallel, resulting in outcomes that did not serve a greater public interest.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“The scientific consensus on the impact of climate change in the South West Region is clear and requires urgent action, meaning improved environmental protection legislation is crucial.

“Unfortunately, the environment has been largely overlooked in the last few decades, as governments destroy the land it so willingly wants to distribute, killing the lifeblood that provides our resources.

“This year, the State Government re-signed the Regional Forest Agreement that states Environmental Protection Authority approval is not needed to log native forest coupes.

“Meanwhile in the Great Southern, EPA powers could not fully consider the consequences of operations at a proposed lime extraction site on the Nullaki Peninsula where, despite opposition from local government, there would likely be a negative environmental impact in a designated conservation zone.

“Near the South West coast at Yoondadadup Lake Jasper, WA’s largest freshwater lake, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety did not require EPA consultation regarding mining exploration work, despite the presence of acid sulphate soils on land excised from the surrounding D’Entrecasteaux National Park.

“These are just a selection of examples where siloed government processes leave the EPA unable to make determinations that may have a greater public and environmental benefit for Western Australians.

“Western Australians need active public participation in these matters through socially democratic deliberative processes, as well as appropriate resourcing of the EPA to ensure the need for a substantiative annual State of the Environment report is fulfilled.

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

Your South West Voice in Parliament, October 21-27

Diane attends the Bindjareb Boodja memorial commemoration of the Pinjarra massacre on Friday, 25 October.

Diane continued activities inside and out of Parliament, aligned with the Noongar values of kart, koort and wirrin, during an emotional week that addressed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2019 and the Pinjarra Massacre of 1834.

The VAD Bill passed the Second Reading vote in the Legislative Council by 25 to 10 on Wednesday. During the previous evening’s session, Diane took the opportunity to speak on this important piece of legislation. Diane highlighted the importance of representation in this matter, with 84% of West Australians in support of the Bill.

The week was bookended by two community events with a strong focus on Noongar culture, firstly at Koolbardies Talking, a local women’s group in the City of Mandurah serving as a meeting place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous women, providing an opportunity to share stories and change public perceptions. This was followed on Saturday by a more solemn affair, as Diane was invited to speak at the Bindjareb Boodja memorial commemoration of the Pinjarra massacre.

In other matters of ongoing significance, on Tuesday the Environmental Protection Authority agreed to proposal changes by the Southern Forests Irrigation Cooperative. The proposal change “clarified” that 9.3 gigalitres of water will be taken from the Donnelly River annually, an increase on the previous 9 gigalitres, despite the removal of a dam the proponents alleged would not have existed in the first place. Diane remains opposed to a water trading scheme that is wildly inequitable, will threaten native forests and will not a provide solution to water allocation that serves community interests. A full Public Environmental Review is to come, Diane will encourage public submissions when this period opens.

Meanwhile on Friday, ABC South West reported that WA’s biggest native hardwood processor, Auswest Timbers, is accused of ‘wasting’ thousands of tonnes of jarrah logs. Diane continues to support the significant work done by WA Forest Alliance (WAFA) in this matter, with her office liaising between constituents, WAFA and Parliament regarding these practices at Auswest Timbers for some time. The native timber industry remains poorly managed by the Forest Products Commission, who are not up to the task of preventing unethical practices.

Elsewhere, Diane continued the busy work of Legislative Council proceedings and attending the meeting of the Select Committee into Local Government, prior to returning to Parliament for the third and final sitting week of October.

Your South West Voice in Parliament, October 14-20

Diane returned to Parliament last week as she combined her duties on the Legislative Council with committee and estimate hearings. There remained time to attend a number of important community events, however, which provided the opportunity to speak in Parliament about the importance of community and culture.

The headline issue of the week statewide was the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, which reached the Legislative Council for the first time. The Greens have a long history of supporting the right for people to choose how they die if they are near the end of their life and in unbearable pain, having introduced legislation to allow VAD in 2001, and again in 2010 — the first political party to do so. Diane will spake in Parliament on this debate in the coming weeks and recognises that 84% of Western Australians support VAD. It’s time that Parliament did too.

Topics Diane addressed in Parliament included biodiversity and her attendance at the State NRM & Coastal and New Economy Network Australia conferences — keep an eye on Diane’s Facebook page for the videos.

Outside of Parliament and as The Greens (WA) spokesperson for regional development, Diane was privileged to provide the opening address on day two of Linkwest’s People. Place. Partnerships. conference on Thursday, 17 October. Diane spoke of kart, koort and wirrin — the triple bottom line of indigenous culture — and the strength to be found in people and community within the regions. Diane has championed the importance of funding Community Resource Centres in recent months.

Diwali celebrations, the WA Forest Alliance Annual General Meeting and travels throughout the Southwest, from Mandurah to Albany (and back again) constituted just a few of Diane’s other activities during the week. Fortunately, a kind farmer in Frankland River came to Diane’s rescue on Sunday with a jerry can of petrol, ensuring she could complete her journeys. With the Legislative Council to commence the second week of a three-week stint on Tuesday, sometimes the important work of providing a South West voice in Parliament needs that little bit of help too.

People Power at Core of Community Conference

South West MLC Diane Evers will continue her strong support of regional communities and Rural Regeneration when attending Linkwest’s ‘People. Place. Partnerships.’ conference this week.

As The Greens (WA) spokesperson for regional development, Ms Evers will be in attendance on day one of the conference, before providing the opening address on day two.

Linkwest is the peak body for Community, Neighbourhood, Family, Resource and Learning Centres in WA, and Ms Evers said she was looking forward to speaking to its role as the head, heart and spirit of this vital network. Diane has previously advocated in Parliament for funding of Linkwest and Community Resource Centres.

Linkwest’s ‘People. Place. Partnerships.’ conference will run from October 16-18. Ms Evers will balance her attendance at this event with her duties during a parliament sitting week.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“I am honoured to give the opening address on day two of Linkwest’s conference and I will recognise the incredible strengths and bonds that exist in the regions.

“So often throughout the South West Region and beyond I see thoughtful, committed people who work daily to change their communities for the better.

“In tumultuous times, the action taken by individuals in each of the 160+ Neighbourhood and Community Resource Centres throughout WA local communities is vital.

“We would not find such strong, vibrant and inclusive communities, making regional WA so special, without these efforts.”

Visit Linkwest’s website for more information about the People. Place. Partnerships. conference.

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