Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche told a Parliamentary Committee hearing yesterday that there was clear evidence linking the Queensland Environmental Defenders’ Office to a campaign of “vexatious litigation designed to disrupt and delay resources projects.”
In his opening statement to the Queensland Agriculture, Resources and Environment Parliamentary Committee’s public hearing on the Minerals and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014, Mr Roche said vexatious litigation was an abuse of Queensland’s objection process, which was originally designed to allow genuine landholder and community concerns to be raised and addressed.
‘Your previous witness, Ms Bragg from the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) said in her submission that there are no cases of vexatious objectors,’ Mr Roche said.
‘This is the same Ms Bragg who is particularly thanked for her contribution to the anti-coal movement’s strategy document entitled ‘Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom’ that was leaked to the media in March 2012.
‘In that document, several strategies are outlined to ‘disrupt and delay key projects. The very first strategy outlined is ‘litigation’. The document says: ‘We will lodge legal challenges to the approval of all the major new coal ports, as well key rail links, the mega mines and several other mines chosen for strategic campaign purposes.’
Mr Roche said the document goes on to budget $1.35 million for a litigation strategy, with the majority allocated to the Queensland Environmental Defenders’ Office.
‘The Committee might ask: Is this strategy being executed? I refer the Committee to the EDO’s website where they set out the cases they have run or have on foot.
‘The EDO represented the so-called Coast and Country Association in its Land Court objection to the Alpha Coal project (a case that ran for about 15 months) and is representing Coast and Country in the judicial review of the Land Court decision on Alpha, as well as the current objection to the Kevin’s Corner coal mine.
‘Who or what is the Coast and Country Association? Well they are in fact a front for the anti-coal activist group Friends of the Earth and their spokesperson is Friends of the Earth campaigner Derec Davies.
‘True to the anti-coal strategy, EDO is also representing two environmental activist groups in court actions against the Abbot Point port expansion.’
Mr Roche said that against this background, QRC supported the amendments in the Minerals and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014 to clarify and streamline the objections process for mining leases (i.e. mining tenure) without limiting or removing a right to object to a mining project.
‘Communities and landholders remain important stakeholders and still retain a genuine opportunity to raise concerns over the project’s environmental impacts.
‘The amendments will reduce unnecessary duplication in Queensland’s approvals processes,’ Mr Roche said.