MP dumps on Abbot Point High Court challenge

FEDERAL Member for Dawson, George Christensen, has rubbished “political” activist group GetUp’s High Court challenge against what it claims to be the Federal Environment Minister’s “rushed” Abbot Point assessment.
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Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

Anthony Barich

The GetUp-funded Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook waited just two days after the Queensland state election was announced to start court proceedings seeking an injunction and judicial review against Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s assessment of Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney’s new applications to “dredge and dump” on the Great Barrier Reef coastline.

Formed 19 years ago to “protect sensitive coastal wetlands”, ASH is funded by GetUp donations and represented by lawyers from the Environment Defenders Office Queensland.

ASH spokeswoman Margaret Moorhouse said the Caley Valley Wetlands at Abbot Point were of “national and international significance” and needed to be protected.

“The wetland is important habitat for 15 migratory shore birds, which represents almost half the total number of migratory shore birds listed under the EPBC (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation) Act,” she said.

“To secure the protection of coastal ecosystems and the integrity of the ecology of the whole Great Barrier Reef, it is essential that we protect all such wetlands.

“That's why we are running this case to force Minister Hunt to comply with the law on assessment processes.”

However, in a blog he called “The truth on Abbot Point”, Liberal National Party House of Representatives member Christensen said: “The one thing you can be sure of when the green activists from GetUp get on their soapbox is they won’t let the truth get in the way of a tall story.”

“There’s a blatant disregard for the truth with their latest stunts in relation to the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion,” he said in the blog which he posted on Facebook.

“Their claim that an onshore land disposal option has already been approved is wrong, as is their claim that the process is being rushed.

“Then two days after a state election is called, they’re mounting a high court challenge in what is an obvious political move.

“This rubbish does nothing to assist the people of Bowen who are desperate to see the expansion of Abbot Point go ahead as soon as possible.”

Christenson said the necessary assessment and approvals process was still underway.

“We must await the decision of the experts,” he said.

“In the meantime, don’t be fooled by the group who said absolutely nothing about the dumping of dredge spoil when the Labor Party was advancing plans to do so.”

Hunt said GetUp’s claims that the government had rushed the environmental assessment process for onshore land disposal at Abbot Point were “completely false”

“Green groups claimed that a federal decision would be rushed before Christmas. This was always false and has now been proved to be false, deceptive and misleading,” Hunt said.

For its claim that Hunt’s assessment was rushed, GetUp cited a Courier Mail report from October 29 last year that said he would fast track the assessment of the plan to dump 3 million cubic metres of Abbot Point dredge spill into the Caley valley wetlands.

The newspaper was unable to prove the claims, but said the state government was under pressure from the tourism industry and would prefer any dumping take place on land to relieve pressure from UNESCO, which was looking at listing the World Heritage site as “in danger” due to environment degradation.

Hunt said GetUp remained “overwhelmingly silent” when Labor advanced plans for dumping in the Marine Park as part of the Abbot Point project with 33 preliminary approvals.

However, GetUp said it launched its campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef in 2011 targeting the then federal Labor government and had “kept up the pressure to save the natural wonder ever since”