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Questions loom over independence of environmental regulators

Greens candidate Kirsten Lovejoy
Greens candidate Kirsten Lovejoy

A national industry body that represents the mining industry has urged the Queensland Government workers to stop affiliating themselves with political parties.

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) recently asked public servants to distance themselves from partisan politics.

“They should not be participating in the public sector and be a card-carrying member of a political party,” MCA chief executive Tania Constable told News Limited. “All government agencies, all government regulators, must be seen to be impartial and must be impartial.”

The remarks come after a senior climate change adviser at the State Department of Environment and Science was exposed for being a key person behind the Australian Greens’ anti-coal mining campaign in the 2016 federal election.

Principal policy officer Kirsten Lovejoy (pictured) is believed to be one of a number of environmental activists who hold influential positions with the department, which the industry accuses of postponing India-headquartered Adani Australia’s $21 billion Carmichael Coal Project in Central Queensland.

The main point of contention is Lovejoy’s 2018 appointment to the Queensland campaign committee of the Greens, which has made it its mission to stop coal mining at Carmichael and the entire Galilee Basin.

She has stood for election three times as a Greens candidate, twice in the state election during 2015 and 2017 and once in the 2016 federal election. During her campaigning she accused the State Government of lying about the Carmichael project’s potential to create 10,000 jobs.

“We all know the lies that are being perpetuated by Adani in the first place and now by the Queensland government and the federal government that this is not true,” Lovejoy said at the time. “All the people … pinning their hopes on this mine will be … impacted by a full sense of loss when those jobs don’t eventuate. It will be a disaster for them too.”

Lovejoy defends her actions by saying for the past 17 years she has always kept her work and private life separate, and slammed the accusations.

“These attacks just show once again how arrogant Adani is, operating as though it can do whatever it likes, whether to Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council land, or by bullying people like me with lies and innuendo,” she said in a Facebook post. “I behave professionally, such a shame the[y] won’t do the same. Buncha bullies. Just makes me want to fight harder.”

Gary Kane has also stood for the election as a Greens candidate and is principal advisor at the department’s regulatory branch, which in February requested to review how Adani planned to protect the native black-throated finch.

A department spokesperson denied Lovejoy had any part in assessing resources projects. State Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch defended Lovejoy’s and Kane’s ­appointment as being “merit-based”, while the spokesperson described the two as “long-standing employees” who served both the Labor and Liberal-National Party (LNP) governments.

However, the state opposition believes she should not have held both positions at the same time with LNP frontbencher Lachlan Millar accusing Lovejoy of acting inappropriately by serving as both a member of the Greens’ campaign committee and employee of the independent regulator. “The regulator needs to be independent and impartial,” he said.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) believes there is one way the State Government can resolve the matter once and for all.

“The premier could put all this to bed by declaring her government’s support for Queensland’s coal mining industry,” AMMA head of policy Tom Reid told News Limited.

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