Environment Minister Tony Burke has been forced to back down on attempts to extend federal powers over national parks after cabinet rejected the move on Monday night.
Mr Burke had been considering ways to extend oversight of parks under national environment law after his vocal attacks on Coalition state government-led grazing, shooting and logging projects in national parks.
One option had been to back or replicate a Greens amendment in the Senate to create a national parks ”trigger” under federal environment laws. The amendment would have been made to an existing government bill before Parliament to give the Commonwealth greater environmental oversight of the water impacts of coal-seam gas projects.
But support for the parks amendment has now been rejected by Labor. Mr Burke’s office would not comment on Tuesday morning except to say that the government supported the bill as is.
The push for greater oversight on national parks followed intense lobbying from the environment movement and corners of the Labor base. But a counter push was launched in the past week by the country’s mining and gas lobby groups who said it could restrict coal seam gas and other projects near the boundaries of national parks.
The Australian newspaper reported on Tuesday that Resources Minister Gary Gray had led the push against the changes within cabinet. The newspaper said Mr Gray wrote to Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the past few days urging her not to back extra powers over parks because of the impact on the resources industry.
Wilderness Society national campaign director Lyndon Schneiders described the decision as ”a lost opportunity by a fading government to provide much needed protection from the state Premiers for Australia’s priceless national parks.”
”This is a set back but only the first skirmish of a much larger campaign for the protection of nature and national parks in Australia,” he said.