Environtmentalists Abuse Legal Procedure
'Mining giants decry 'lawfare'' by A Hepworth (The Australian, 7/8/2015)

Mining giants have warned against a growing trend for environmental activists to use "lawfare" to delay projects, threatening thousands of jobs, new investment and the overall economy.

As Tony Abbott called on parliament to ensure projects were not delayed by "legal sabotage" after Adani's Carmichael mine was set back by court action, Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson backed the reworking of federal environmental laws to "reduce the capacity for ideological and vexatious appeals by activist groups".

Mr Pearson said reforms to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act would not affect the robustness of approvals

"but would limit the ability for activist groups to make vexatious appeals to the Federal Court to delay or hold up projects using procedural technicalities".

On Sunday, Attorney-General George Brandis said he wanted changes to the EPBC Act because "virtually anyone" involved in conservation or research into the environment at any time in the past two years had legal standing to challenge determinations.

Yesterday, Mr Pearson said this part of the law was at odds with other commonwealth legislation such as the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act, and changing it would bring certainty for business:

"Left unchecked, the 'lawfare' strategy of anti-coal and anti-mining activists to cripple the industry will risk thousands of jobs, threaten any new investment and hurt Australia's economy."

NSW Environmental Defenders Office principal solicitor Sue Higginson said: "There is absolutely no evidence that laws are used as a form of sabotage for projects."

The part of the law giving people "standing" to challenge a decision was there because "people commence environmental litigation in the public interest, not in their own private interest".

Rio Tinto's chief operating officer for coal, Chris Salisbury, said the company had spent six years so far trying to secure the future of the Mount Thorley-Warkworth mine in NSW's Hunter Valley.

Shell Australia chairman Andrew Smith said the industry did not mind "jumping the highest hurdles but we only want to jump them once": slowing the progress of projects "adds costs, and will cost jobs for young Australians".