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Senate Speech - Standing up for WA's Environment and the multiple fronts on which our environment is under assault.

Tonight I rise to speak on the multiple fronts on which our environment is under assault. I want to acknowledge those people, particularly the West Australians, who at some time in their lives took stock of what was happening around them and did not look away. There are people in Western Australia and across this ancient continent who took up work in defence of life on earth and to this day they form the backbone of the environment movement, which has done so much to protect and preserve the environment sustaining our communities and economy.

Those in the Goldfields and their allies across the country continue to hold the line 40 years after uranium mining was first seriously proposed for Western Australia.

This is the campaign that got me started and ultimately propelled me into this chamber, where I am proud to represent those who do so much in defence of our community and environment. They include Uncle Glen Cook; my friend, colleague and mentor Kado Muir; Vicky McCabe; Geoffrey Stokes; Richard Evans; and their supporters from the south who walk in the footprints of those who have walked this ancient country for millennia such as Mia Pepper, Marcus, KA and Bilbo.

Many of these people are unknown to members of this chamber and yet they have played a powerful role over such a long time in keeping the outback free of the most toxic of industries. As I speak, there are people camped at Challar forest on Western Australia's south coast, not too far from Walpole. Western Australia has globally significant forests.

The south-west of WA is a global biodiversity hotspot and the state has a strong and proud tradition of standing up in defence of old-growth and high conservation value forests. We know that forests help regulate climate and moderate weather.

A recent report showed a strong link between declining rainfall and unregulated deforestation in Western Australia. Half of the forests of Western Australia's south-west have been permanently removed. Of the remaining half, only about 15 per cent is in pre-European condition, yet the Western Australia government will shortly table plans to double the area of native forest logging in the south-west.

To those like Jess Beckerling who is engaged in protection of native forest ecosystems in the south-west, Ellie Smith and Dylan Lehmann who were involved in recent non-violent direct action in defence of these priceless ecosystems, I am proud to represent your work.

Across the Kimberley and the Midwest-and we are a couple of years behind the extraordinary confrontations that have occurred in New South Wales and Queensland-we are seeing the ongoing threat of hydraulic fracking of our precious water resources on the driest inhabited continent on earth. Yet we are letting the gas industry overrun our farming, pastoral and wilderness areas by injecting sand, chemicals and occasionally diesel into aquifers, our precious water bodies, in order to squeeze out the last finite drops of fossil fuels. Almost the entire Kimberley, including the water supply of Broome, is under exploration threat.

Lock the Gate has a proud history on the east coast and is now established in Geraldton. Mount Lesueur is a flashpoint at the moment, an incredible area rich in biodiversity but now under threat from gas fracking. I acknowledge Lisa Smith and other members of Frack Free Geraldton, the farmers calling for gates to be locked and a veto, Dale Park who is the head of the Western Australian Farmers Federation and said: 'What we're calling for is a right of veto on exploration for gas and petroleum, like we have with mining, because that makes the negotiations a lot more equal when dealing with drillers and gas companies.' We know that people of the west Kimberley are accomplished in sticking up for themselves when those from the south come calling with vast and inappropriate industrial development proposals such as a dam across the Fitzroy river, GM cotton plantations and more recently the defence of the Kimberley coast against an onshore gas plant.

And now most recently, this community, which has won so much at such extraordinary cost, is facing unregulated gas fracking across the area as well. Those people have welcomed me to the camps on the Kimberley coast as I have traipsed through there with my colleagues, Robin Chapple and Rachel Siewert, from time to time. I brought Bob Brown Christine Milne through that part of the country. Some camp there still in defence of dreaming trails that have been sung for tens of thousands of years for the intact cultural heritage of that part of the world.

We know that the destruction of the precious environment of Western Australia does not just occur in wilderness areas or in those far-flung parts of our state but happens very close to home. For those of us who live in the Perth metropolitan area, we are still seeing vast areas of precious and irreplaceable urban bushland going under bulldozers. Dawn Jecks, James Mumme from Hands off Point Peron and those others across the southern suburbs have in some instance put their lives on hold to save their area around Point Peron. Others have stood up for the Beeliar Wetlands-over more years than I can remember-for a totally inappropriate, appallingly expensive freeway project that refuses to just lie down and die. Now Premier Barnett is at it again. My colleague Lynn MacLaren MLC has provided important support for that campaign over a very long period of time.

What these things all have in common is that they are linked to a global phenomenon: the destruction our model of unlimited industrial growth is visiting on ecosystems across this continent is not just an Australian phenomenon. It is linked with what scientists are called calling the Holocene extinction, the sixth great extinction event. All of these phenomena are linked and so the movements across the state of Western Australia, across this continent of Australia and across the world are themselves linked in this great work of protection.

In here, as a representative the Greens, I am proud to advocate for strong national environmental laws. What is new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, doing in response to this cascading extension event, which is flowing across the terrestrial, marine and riverine ecosystems? Wherever you go, the fingerprints are there. What this Prime Minister is proposing to do is absolve himself of responsibility. That 30- or 40-year arc of accumulation of national environmental law to deal with issues of national environmental significance is simply to be washed back to the states and territories.

As a West Australian, I can say with great confidence that the Barnett government, the framework of state environmental law and the deliberate enfeeblement of the EPA have failed on so many counts to hold industry and government up to the standards that the community expects. Why would you hand national environmental powers, including protection of native species and biodiversity and even industries as toxic as the uranium industry, back to somebody like Premier Barnett and an Environmental Protection Authority that has conflicted itself out of decisions as weighty as those on James Price Point and find itself in the courts as a result?

I am proud to stand with those who care for the environment and who back their care up with action. Those on the other side do not appear to care about the destruction of the very things that sustain us but it is what drives the Greens. It is what propels us to turn up in here day after day. So we stand with those who are putting themselves in the way of business as usual, in the way of this extinction event that is rolling across the landscape-where governments act as proxies for large corporate interests, stealing from current and future generations, totalling it up and calling it GDP. As my dear friend Dave Sweeney, a nuclear campaigner for the ACF, said, 'Community power is base load power.' It is always on. It is always there, and I am proud to represent it in this place.

 

 

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